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1. RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Born in Albany, Ga., Paula Deen learns her way around the kitchen from her grandmother, according to her Food Network bio. By the time she moves to Savannah with her sons (Bobby and Jamie), $200 in her pocket and plenty of recipes under her belt, she is ready to start her own catering business, The Bag Lady, which serves up Southern specialties like chicken pot pie and barbecue. Its popularity leads to her own restaurant, The Lady and Sons, and eventually her own show, Paula's Home Cooking, which begins airing on the Food Network in 2002.
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2. A SIDE OF CONTROVERSY
Though known for her sweet-as-pie personality, Deen finds herself in hot water in 2012 when Lisa Jackson, a former manager at Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, sues Deen and her brother Bubba Hiers, who own the restaurant, claiming she was sexually harassed and worked in an environment rife with innuendo and racial slurs. In a May 17, 2013, deposition, the celeb chef admits to Jackson's lawyer that "Yes, of course" she has used the N-word in the past, but, "It's been a very long time." Deen adds: "That's just not a word that we use as time has gone on."
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3. STICK A FORK IN IT?
Not Deen, who quickly issues a video apology to her public after canceling a June 21 Today show interview to clear her name. "I want to learn and grow from this," she says in the video. "Inappropriate, hurtful language is totally unacceptable. I've made plenty of mistakes along the way, but I beg you, my children, my team, my fans, my partners – I beg for your forgiveness."
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5. SIMMERING DOWN
Just more than a month (and a staff change) after admitting she "committed a sin" during her rescheduled Today show appearance, a federal judge in Georgia throws out the race discrimination claims in an Aug. 12 ruling. "As Ms. Deen has stated before, she is confident that those who truly know how she lives her life know that she believes in equal opportunity, kindness and fairness for everyone," her rep tells PEOPLE in a statement.
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