By now, I’m sure everybody has heard about the quick and rapid fall from grace that has taken place with Food Network star Paula Deen. Answering questions about a lawsuit filed against her, she admitted to having used racial slurs, which set off a wave of backlash that continued to build and build, until it was basically a rogue wave, wiping out everything in its path. Namely, her career.
Pretty much every store or brand that she’s worked with has dropped her, including the flagship Food Network, but also restaurants that had her name on them, stores that carried her product, and pretty much everything in between. The most comparable fall from grace I’ve seen for someone in her line of work was back when Martha Stewart fell apart and ended up in jail.
What Did Paula Do Wrong?
I think Paula Deen erred in three major ways, all of which had she done them differently, would have dramatically altered the outcome of her situation
- Not said the slurs in the first place – Obviously, had she never said what she said, there would be nothing to talk about. I know everybody has said things that they regret saying, and if it’s true that she said them thirty years ago, I guess I’m surprised that she even remembers them in great detail.
- Acted nonchalant about them – When she admitted to having used the slurs, what made it exponentially worse for her was when she basically tried to play it off as not a big deal, and was not even sure that it would have been offensive. I think the way that she addressed it (and the fact that her publicists did not get in front of it) was a major fail. Had she admitted that she used the bad words, made a heartfelt apology, and explained her thoughts on equality, I think she would have come much further ahead. As it was, when she finally did those things, they rang hollow after her initial comments.
- Waited too long to address it – After the tide started building against her, she waited a few days before addressing it and issuing apologies. That’s forever in this day in age. That allowed the buzz to grow and grow. Had she issued her public apology days sooner, or appeared on the Today show when she was originally supposed to (the week prior), she might have had a chance. As it was, every passing hour meant that public tide could build, social media could continue to eat away at her reputation, and executives could have boardroom meetings to discuss their future. Time was not in her favor.