Recipe for riches: Take one famous celebrity, accuse her of something outrageous - then file a lawsuit or write a juicy book. That could be the formula a former employee of foodie Paula Deen is using after accusing the queen of butter of being racist.
Or, she could be telling the truth.
If so, her allegation that Deen is racist could curdle the creamy-complexioned Food Network star's reputation among fans who can't stomach people using racial slurs or fondly reminiscing about black people serving white masters.
According to former employee Lisa Jackson, Deen desired a "true Southern plantation-style wedding" for her brother Bubba Hiers, with whom she co-owns a restaurant at which the white Jackson worked as general manager. In a lawsuit against Deen and her brother, Jackson claims her boss described to her the style she wanted servers to wear at her brother Bubba's wedding in 2007:
"What I would really like is a bunch of little n***ers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties," Deen allegedly said. "You know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around. Now, that would be a true Southern wedding wouldn't it? But we can't do that because the media would be on me about that."
Jackson also claimed that black employees at the siblings' restaurant, Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, had to use a separate bathroom in the back of the restaurant and that both Deen and Hiers frequently made racist comments.
Ironically, Deen recently appeared on an episode of "Oprah's Next Chapter" on which she admitted to having a 10-year affair with a married man but failed to mention her fondness for plantation life or racially segregated restrooms.
If the racist allegations against Deen prove to be more than just half-baked gossip, Deen could suffer a severe setback to her career as a lifestyle guru.
Mel Gibson never really recovered from racist remarks revealed on a recording between him and ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva. He told the mother of his child that the risqué way she dressed would get her "raped by a pack of n***ers." Piled on a stack of other icky Mel-apropisms, including one in which the "Braveheart" star made anti-Semitic remarks to a Jewish police officer, the Aussie's fail meter became stuck in the extreme zone.
Michael Richards, best known as the kooky character Kramer on "Seinfeld," also had a career meltdown when he replied to hecklers at a comedy club, "Fifty years ago they'd have you hanging upside down with a [expletive] fork up your [expletive]. Throw his [expletive] out!" He later apologized on the "Late Show with David Letterman," but since the incident six years ago, Richards' career has been largely confined to anonymous voice-over work.
A big difference between Deen and the two disgraced male performers is that Gibson's and Richards' racist remarks were recorded. So far the allegations against the Georgia native are simply hearsay by a solo accuser. But should the lawsuit encourage other witnesses to back the plaintiff's charges, Deen could find her own career falling faster than a cheese soufflé.
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- Paula Deen