Last Tuesday morning, television chef Paula Deen unveiled a bombshell of a secret: Three years ago, she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Deen’s trademark recipe is decadence mixed with butter. The cherry on top is that she also announced she will be a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk, a pharmaceutical company that makes the diabetes drug Victoza. Many of the public’s comments on articles from websites like MSNBC, FOX News and CNN and have been grinding on her ever since, first for developing diabetes, then on her sketchy partnership.
However, while Deen’s recipes are typically unhealthy, they are typically American — that is, on a budget in a struggling economy. In a post by J. Bryan Lowder from Slate’s “XX factor,” the ingredients in Deen’s recipes can be picked up “easily and cheaply at your local Super Walmart, (made) in bulk, and satisfy a large swath of palates.”
Last August, Deen responded to scathing remarks from Anthony Bourdain by saying, “You know, not everybody can afford to pay $58 for prime rib or $650 for a bottle of wine. My friends and I cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills . . . It wasn’t that long ago that I was struggling to feed my family, too.”
Bourdain, also a television chef, has made a career out of his contentious choice of words to other chefs. The ironic thing about him blasting Deen’s unhealthy cooking is that he is known to be an avid smoker who admitted in 2005 to TV Guide that his cholesterol levels are “not so great.”
Anyone can see that her meals are not for daily consumption. Although she is a public figure, the American people are intelligent enough to see that her foods are not particularly healthy.
“I have always eaten in moderation,” said Deen on The Today Show. “You know, people see me on TV two or three times a day and they see me cooking all these wonderfully Southern, fattening dishes. That’s only 30 days out of 365. And it’s for entertainment. And people have to be responsible. Like I told Oprah a few years ago, honey, I’m your cook, not your doctor. You are going to have to be responsible for yourself.”
Although making healthy food choices is one of the major methods of preventing the development of Type 2 diabetes, diet is not the sole contributing factor. According to WebMD, “age, family history, and ethnicity” can play a role.
The timing of her announcement has left a bad taste in our mouths, however.
Deen claims she was not trying to hide her diagnosis to protect her reputation, but because, as she told USA Today, “My knowledge about the disease was very limited. But now I’m coming with good information, something that can help and bring hope to other people. It may sound cliche, but it’s the God-honest truth.”
But who is to say Novo Nordisk did not foresee the publicity from Deen’s reveal and their controversial partnership? This free news coverage is a boon for them, and even if Deen’s actions were inadvertent, it was still the wrong move. Deen would have done well to come clean within months of her diagnosis on her own and then signed the deal perhaps a year later. In our opinion, the damage to her reputation is worse than it would have been if she had been upfront to her deserving fans three years ago.