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Denise Vivaldo Headshot

Paula Deen and the Slippery Slope

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Okay, I'm jumping into the fray. I want to go on record first thing by saying that I have never met Paula Deen. I did get a call from her team years ago, but I was booked.

I have never watched her show for more then 10 minutes in all the years she has been on television. Not my food taste. But, when I've seen her, I think she is charming. And it's hard for me to fault a woman that obviously buys that much jewelry and isn't afraid to wear it.

She's worked hard for her money, I'm glad she enjoys it. I love an American success story.

I used to say that the caterer learns too much. You go into people's homes and see things you wish you hadn't. As it turns out, as a food stylist or culinary producer, the same rules apply, but what you learn is multiplied by consecutive days of intense television shooting.

Pressure, stress, and performance are what the talent provides so that a BRAND is made and a whole lot of people work. During tapings you learn the good, the bad, and the ugly about said talent.

I've worked with many celebrity chefs from Food Network, Bravo, TLC, Lifetime, Disney and Hallmark... um... who am I forgetting? I can say to the world that networks need and want to make money. Mostly television is about entertainment and selling shit. Can it be a forum for education, health, history or politics? Of course. But I know that at least 10 years ago Food Network sent out press releases to everyone in the media stating that they were moving from information to entertainment. Pretty clear message.

At first, the viewing public liked Paula's wild abandon when she melted a whole stick of butter. Then her show continued to play on it. The already very fat America that had tried low-fat food and failed simply loved Paula Deen. Let's keep in mind; America has been obese for a while. Ask the billion dollar diet industry.

Here comes the slippery slope. After making millions of dollars, and finding out she has Type 2 Diabetes, that savvy businesswoman makes a huge deal with a drug company. From what I can tell, that's what people are really are pissed off about. She kept her diabetes a secret. How dare she! A celebrity with a secret!

How we love to tear down idols.

Is it Paula's responsibility to America and her fans to be honest and tell the truth, or decide it's nobody's damn business and she'll keep quiet until she is ready.

How amazing the same network is now showing her son's show, Not My Mama's Meals, which centers on lightened up versions of Paula's recipes. How timely! (Not to mention the network already owns a lot of the material... cost saving. I can see the meeting in my mind when the idea was born... reuse, recycle, re-air.)

Could they have known and decided to launch another Deen family extended BRAND? Sure. Is there anything wrong with that?

Now Paula is being attacked by other food professionals. This is where it gets interesting. I'm supposed to believe that she is one of the most "dangerous women in America" from a former heroin addict who smoked cigarettes for about 45 years and has made his BRAND on being a "Bad Boy." Okay, I think Anthony Bourdain has worked his own great BRAND with his entertaining writing. Is knowing his past dangerous to other chefs coming up? Will they try hard and heavy drugs and then say, "But Anthony Bourdain turned out famous, rich and successful, he's on television!" Is he a danger to the "war on drugs"?

I've worked with television chefs that couldn't chop an onion. That's right, they can't cook. I've worked with a famous vegan chef smoking Marlboro's during her breaks. I worked with cooking stars whose breath was so stinky from vomiting after every meal, the crew looked forward to the vodka they used as mouthwash. Or the numerous married television chefs that are also fat and whose girlfriends call the production's telephone line to find out when their "sweetie" will be finished. Have I mentioned the famous chef that arrives so hung-over every single time I've worked with him that it's a given that he will ask for a cocktail at 7 a.m.? Or my favorite, a long dead old TV chef that proclaimed his love of GOD and his wife at every show, when in fact wasn't married, he liked young men. And kept/paid them as assistants. Oh my. Now that's a fucking secret.

I want to wrap this up by saying that I don't get my values, eating habits, or belief systems from television personalities, celebrities or politicians. I know right from wrong by being raised by great parents who drilled into me that I was responsible for my own behavior and life.

So, my Americans, if you are obese, don't eat processed food, walk everyday, try eating more vegetables. We as a nation would be stronger if we stopped blaming others for our problems.

Denise Vivaldo is food stylist in Los Angeles, and has written seven cookbooks.

She wants to mention that she has never asked Kim Kardashian for marriage advice.

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