As a young girl growing up in Albany, Georgia, Paula Deen never dreamed she would become an American icon. As a young mother, Paula was living the American dream—married to her high school sweetheart, raising two adorable boys when tragedy struck. Her parents died, her marriage failed and she began a prolonged battle with agoraphobia. With her boys in their teens and her family near homelessness, Paula took her last $200, reached deep inside her soul and started “The Bag Lady,” a home-based catering company that marked the start of Deen’s professional cooking. With sons Jamie and Bobby delivering “lunch-and-love-in-a-bag,” beginning in June 1989, Paula turned around her life by sharing what she knew best, traditional Southern cooking.
Overcoming poverty, self-doubt and health challenges to achieve success and acclaim, Paula has become one of the best-known personalities in the world of cooking. Yet the most remarkable part of Paula Deen’s journey from her kitchen to fame is that Paula has remained every bit as genuine, real and full of love as she was the day the first meals left her kitchen.
Deen’s first business, The Bag Lady, brought out Paula’s strengths and stabilized her family. She moved her catering company to a small restaurant at a Best Western motel in Savannah and finally opening her first restaurant, The Lady and Sons, with Bobby and Jamie five years later. The restaurant was a hit and the popularity of Paula and her cooking led to her first cookbook, 1998’s The Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook. This gave her fans the opportunity to try Paula’s recipes at home, and led to her first television appearance on QVC. Paula’s genuine warmth and folksy personality made her a natural for television. In 1999, USA Today food critic Jerry Shriver named The Lady and Sons “International Meal of the Year.”
Since then, Paula’s business interests have grown considerably. In 2011, Paula Deen Foods was launched and in 2013, they introduced food products based on her traditional recipes and lighter versions as well. These products were developed in Paula’s kitchen.
In 2014, Paula launched her nationwide live tour, Paula Deen Live!, which consisted of 90 minute shows featuring Paula making her favorite seasonal dishes. She also played fun, interactive games with her fans and shared stories on stage with her husband, Michael. For the first time ever, fans had the chance to interact with Paula personally and sample her delicious Southern creations.
Paula now has a digital lifestyle network, the Paula Deen Network, which launched in September 2014. The Paula Deen Network allows viewers to engage and access Paula anytime, anywhere—on computer, smartphone, or tablet. The network is the only place to experience new programming on demand from Paula. Each day, Paula provides viewers with cooking tips, new recipes and step-by-step instruction on how to cook her signature Southern dishes in an unscripted format.
In 2015, Paula launched her first free mobile game, Paula Deen’s Recipe Quest, and premiered her first show on EVINE Live. The same year Paula opened her new restaurant, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, in Pigeon Forge, TN and launched her podcast, Get Cooking with Paula Deen, and radio show, What’s Cooking with Paula Deen. Paula’s latest cookbook, Paula Deen Cuts The Fat: 250 Favorite Recipes All Lightened Up, made The New York Times Best Sellers List in under a week. Paula also launched a pet food line with Hugs called Paula Deen Hugs Premium Select Pet Food. She competed in the twenty-first season of ABC’s hit show Dancing with the Stars, and successfully made it halfway through the competition.
Ever grateful for all she has been blessed with, Paula and her family continue to give back to the community. Paula, a board member of the Bethesda Home for Boys, also works tirelessly for America’s Second Harvest. In 2012, Paula launched The Bag Lady Foundation, supporting issues of hunger that affect women and families across the country.