I suspect over the last three years Paula Deen has been consuming more public relations' advice than she has country fried steak and those famous gooey butter cakes. And yet, I doubt she's finding that advice very palatable these days.
After announcing her 2008 diabetes diagnosis to the world this week, health professionals, fellow chefs, journalists and fans pushed her off that solid gold pedestal and into a sea of controversy. We will never know how the world would have responded had she announced it immediately or chosen to be an unpaid spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association (Deen has since announced she will donate to the association) rather than a compensated representative for a pharmaceutical company that just might make a lot of cash by cashing in on a devastating disease. (Note: I realize the value of pharmaceutical research and am grateful for this science and the companies that promote it.) Could Paula Deen have been the latest version of the Marlboro Men, plagued by using and endorsing products with serious health side effects, but stepping forward to speak out against them?
Celebrities have long kept their health issues private, but it seems the world loves them more when they share. And of course the more they share, the more the world wants. Maybe that's why Steve Jobs kept his health issues private. And while many speculated, they didn't berate him. If laptops had been linked to pancreatic cancer, that would have been a different story. Is Paula's bubbling style also what did her in? Did we expect her to blurt it all out years ago, because she's the not-easily-embarrassed morning show sidekick?
The fact is, medical crises jeopardize careers every day. Some people make wise decisions, others make foolish ones. And none of these choices are ever easy. I like to think that Paula never expected any of this and that she agonized over her decisions and then made a bad one. As a psychologist, I also understand why health advocates, diabetics and peers aren't quick to be so forgiving.
And so, while Paula Deen and her PR team are left to clean up this mess, let's focus on what we can teach our children from this sad tale. Here are 5 parental "I told you so" moments. I'm sure there are more....
1. What you eat can come back to bite you.
2. Deep fried is deep trouble.
3. Honesty is the best policy.
4. Bad publicity isn't better than no publicity.
5. Always learn from your mistakes. Then help others to not make the same ones.