The hole Paula Deen found herself in after she admitted to using the N-word has just gotten deeper. The celebrity chef, who copped to using the slur during a deposition that leaked to the Internet, now faces allegations from a longtime employee who says she witnessed Deen engage in more subtle forms of racism.
Dora Charles, an employee of Deen for the past 22 years, tells the New York Times that Deen once asked her to ring a dinner bell in front of her Savannah, Georgia restaurant, telling customers to "come and get it."
"I said, 'I’m not ringing no bell,'" Charles tells the paper. "That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day."
The 59-year-old, who Deen once called her "soul sister" and who ran Deen's restaurants for decades, also claims she witnessed the Food Network star ask another Black employee, Ineata Jones, to serve food dressed as Aunt Jemima. Charles, whose close relationship with Deen was chronicled in the embattled host's 2007 memoir, It Ain't All About the Cooking, adds, "It’s just time that everybody knows that Paula Deen don’t treat me the way they think she treat me.”
Deen, meanwhile, has denied Charles' accusations. In a statement via her rep, she says, "Fundamentally, Dora’s complaint is not about race but about money. It is about an employee that despite over 20 years of generosity feels that she still deserves yet even more financial support from Paula Deen."
While Deen claims she has provided both financial support and emotional guidance to Charles over the 22 years they worked together, Charles claims she was making less than $10 an hour even after Deen became a star on the Food Network and launched an empire worth millions.
Charles, who still works for Deen, makes it a point to say she is not asking Deen for more money, and claims she still considers the Southern cooking matriarch a friend. "I still have to be her friend if I’m God’s child," she said. "I might feed her with a long-handled spoon, but, yeah, I’m still her friend."
Deen needs all the friends she can get right about now. The celebrity chef, whose journey to the top of the culinary-entertainment food chain started with overcoming a battle with depression and agoraphobia, has seen her empire crumble before her eyes over the past couple of months. Sparked by her admission under oath that she used the N-word on several occasions, her downfall became worse after she posted a series of bizarre apology videos on the Internet and appeared insincere on morning talk shows.
Some members of the Black community including journalist Roland Martin, the Reverend Al Sharpton and Stacey Dash have come out in support of the flailing chef.
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