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Paula Deen continues comeback

Paula Deen is on the comeback trail with a new $20 million restaurant and retail center planned for Pigeon Forge, Tenn. (File photo)

Paula Deen is on the comeback trail with a new $20 million restaurant and retail center planned for Pigeon Forge, Tenn. (File photo)

Paula Deen just got back from the beach, where she got a warm welcome at the South Beach Wine & Food festival. After maintaining a low profile from what she has described as a trying time, Albany native Paula Deen is clearly back on the rise.

She has revamped her business interests into Paula Deen Ventures, which attracted a $75 million investment from Najafi Co., and announced last week the new Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, a $20 million restaurant and retail operation coming to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., near Dollywood.

In an interview with People magazine that also hit newsstands Friday, Deen said she was working to rehabilitate her image, which sustained a crushing blow when it was revealed she admitted in a lawsuit deposition that she had used a racial epithet three decades ago.

“I’m fighting to get my name back,” she told the magazine.

The new company is looking for business opportunities, including a new television vehicle for Deen, who was unceremoniously dropped by Food Network last summer. Food Network isn’t among the prospects.

Deen also said in the People interview the public downfall she experienced left her unable to get out of bed in the morning, because it felt like her “world was crashing down again” every day.

And since television personalities Phil Robertson (“Duck Dynasty”) and Nigella Lawson (“The Taste”) endured scandals last year without any noticeable damage to their careers, Deen has developed new-found “empathy” for those scrutinized by the media.

“It’s amazing that some people are given passes and some people are crucified,” Deen said. “I have new empathy for these situations, though. My dad always told me, ‘Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.’”