Paula Deen has a very powerful ally ... 'cause undefeated boxing champ Laila Ali tells TMZ she's still got Deen's back, even after the n-word controversy.
Right before Deen's kingdom came crumbling down, Laila joined Deen on the Food Network show "Paula's Best Dishes" back in April to cook up some Cloverleaf Rolls, Brussels sprouts, stewed beef and cheese grits.
Since her appearance, Deen has basically been branded a racist due to the fact she admitted using the N-word in private.
So, when Laila and her husband, former NFL star Curtis Conway, rolled into Malibu yesterday, we had to ask how she felt about the disgraced chef.
Considering how important her father is in the African American community ... and the respect he has among all Americans ... Laila's support could be a game changer in Paula's quest for redemption.
I Did NOT Dress Up Black Chef Like Aunt Jemima
7/25/2013 8:35 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Paula Deen is calling BS on a former chef who claims Deen made an African-American employee dress up like Aunt Jemima ... claiming the chef is crying racism in a pathetic money grab.
The woman behind the allegations is Dora Charles -- who ran Deen's kitchens for 22 years and helped open Paula's famous Lady & Sons restaurant in Georgia.
Charles spoke with the New York Times -- and claimed Deen wouldn't just use racial slurs in the kitchens, but wanted to dress up her employees as humiliating stereotypes.
Among the allegations, Charles says Deen tried to make her ring a dinner bell for restaurant customers ... something Charles felt was racially charged.
"That's a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day," Charles said.
Charles also claims Deen tried to make another black female employee, Ineata Jones, dress up in an "old style Aunt Jemima outfit" while flipping hoecakes at a dining station.
But Deen says ... she's not only confident Charles is making the whole thing up -- but claims on July 6, Jones signed a legal document saying she had never felt discriminated against and never heard Deen spout racial slurs during her employment.
Charles has not filed a lawsuit, but claims she wants to get her story out so everyone will know the real Paula Deen.
Deen's camp fired back in a statement saying, "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."
Of course, Deen has previously admitted that she used the N-word ... but insists she never directed the slur at any of her employees.
'DWTS' Star Mark Ballas
Producers Could Force Me to Tango With Paula Deen
7/21/2013 12:44 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
If you're a pro dancer on "Dancing With the Stars" and find yourself partnered with a disgraced celeb like Paula Deen ... that's too damn bad ... producers will FORCE you to rumba no matter how much you hate them.
Mark Ballas laid it all out for us on the streets of Hollywood Saturday. Our photog asked him, IF Paula was chosen for the show ... would he take issue cha-cha-cha-ing with her, in light of her n-word scandal?
Mark tells us ... he has NO SAY in the matter whatsoever. Meaning, even if you loathe your celeb ... or find their use of racial slurs questionable ... you better suck it up. Mark explains why.
Which reminds us ...
Stars and Scars
You Be the Judge
7/19/2013 5:11 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
A lot happened this week ... another Kanye attack, a racist attack against Oprah by a jealous actress and a venomous reaction to a magazine cover. So we gotta ask ...
N-Word Will Stay
7/15/2013 11:50 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Video of Paula Deen openly admitting to using the n-word will never see the light of day ... so ruled the judge in the $1.2 million lawsuit filed by one of Paula's ex-employees, who accused Paula of promoting a racist and sexist work environment.
You'll recall, the video deposition -- in which Paula says "yes of course" she used the n-word in the past -- precipitated her epic self-destruction, with scores of business partners ducking for cover and costing her millions.
We're told the video is "colorful," but you'll probably never see it ... at least if the judge has his way.
Deen was obviously terrified the employee would leak the deposition video to the media ... so last week, she filed docs asking the judge to block its release.
Victim of Extortion Attempt
7/5/2013 1:16 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
The FBI arrested a man in New York this morning after he allegedly tried to extort $250,000 from Paula Deen ... claiming he would release "true and damning" statements made by Deen unless she paid up.
According to a federal criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of Georgia on June 24, Deen's attorney went to the FBI after Deen received an email and follow up phone call from a man named Thomas Paculis.
The complaint claims Paculis threatened to go to the media with information he claimed would bring hardship and financial ruin to Deen.
According to the FBI, Paculis' email to Deen's attorney read, "I am about to go public with statements refuting your clients statements about using the 'N' word in her business practices at Lady and Son's ... The statements are true and damning enough that the case for Jackson will be won on it's merit alone."
The email went on to say there is a price for such information and urged Deen's attorney to contact him.
The revelation that Deen had used the N-word, which came about from a leaked deposition she gave as part of a lawsuit against her, came to light just days before.
Paculis was taken into custody today and will go before a judge in Savannah, GA on July 16.
Fries Relationship with Agent
7/5/2013 7:30 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Paula Deen is finally on the other end of a severed business relationship ... she's cutting ties with her agent following the recent fallout from her admission to using the N-word.
Deen's rep, Elana Weiss, said in a statement that Deen "has separated from" New York agent Barry Weiner.
Weiss went on to say that Deen and her family "thank him for the tireless effort and dedication over the many years."
Since the leak of a deposition in which Deen admitted to using the N-word in the past, she has lost deals with the likes of The Food Network, Wal-Mart, Target, JCPenney, Kmart, Sears and her book publisher.
Stars and Scars
You Be the Judge
6/29/2013 12:50 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Busy week, with lots of alleged bigotry front and center -- from Alec Baldwin's Twitter rant, to Paula Deen's Titanic-like career plunge. So we gotta ask ...
New Job Offer ...
No Apron Required
6/29/2013 12:48 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Disgraced chef Paula Deen needs a job ... and she's a mom ... so the good people who run a MILF-based porn site put 2-and-2 together and have offered her a SIX-FIGURE GIG.
A website called PureMature.com fired off a letter this week ... offering Paula a place in their company ... in light of her N-word controversy, which has lost her MILLIONS in sponsorships.
In the letter, PM starts by explaining to Paula she's a MILF -- a hot mom over the age of 65 who men would like to (you know). It continues with the job offer adding, "Full figured or thin, arthritic or diabetic -- you embody our perfect spokesperson."
As for compensation, PureMature says it's willing to offer her "6 figures for very little work" ... and NO nudity is required. Phew.
Who knows what years of fried Twinkies has created ...
Dropped By Publisher
6/28/2013 1:30 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
The demolition derby known as Paula Deen's empire rolls on -- she's just been dropped by one of her publishers, which says it will no longer release her next project ... which was expected to be a best seller.
In a statement released Friday, Ballantine Books announced it has cancelled the publication of "Paula Deen's New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up".
But get this ... even though the book wasn't set to come out until October, it's already #1 on Amazon with pre-order sales.
Ballantine adds its name to the long list of companies abandoning ship in light of Deen's n-word controversy ... The Food Network, QVC, JCPenny, and Smithfield Hams, etc ...
Bye Bye Paula
6/28/2013 11:53 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Paula Deen's officially the least popular kid on the playground ... JCPenney just severed ties with the celebrity chef in the wake of her n-word scandal.
A rep for the department store released a statement today, saying, "We can confirm that jcpenney has decided to discontinue selling Paula Deen branded merchandise."
JCP had sold Deen-brand kitchen products ... which is good news for Martha Stewart.
The retail giant is the latest to run for the hills -- Target, Home Depot, QVC, Kmart, Sears, and Walmart (to name a few) have already dumped Paula.
White Woman Suing Me
Is Also Smearing Me!
6/28/2013 10:25 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Paula Deen has filed legal docs in the lawsuit that sent her career into a free fall -- claiming the woman who's suing her is trumping up racial allegations and now Paula is out for blood.
Lisa Jackson -- who claims she was forced to quit her job as manager of Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House -- is asking for damages based on racial harassment, claiming she's African-American adjacent. As for Jackson's proof she's got African-American ties, she points to her partner's biracial niece, whom Jackson claims is half Black.
According to Paula's new legal docs -- obtained by TMZ -- Jackson's niece is NOT Black at all ... not even a little. Paula says Jackson's partner has now admitted the niece is Hispanic -- NOT Black.
And Paula's especially pissed that Jackson alleged in her lawsuit that Paula used the N-word in connection with Bubba's wedding, yet has never offered a shred of proof that the word was used.
So now Paula wants the judge to throw the book at Jackson, fining her with sanctions for creating a bogus racial harassment case.
Kmart & Sears
Bailing Out Too
6/28/2013 7:45 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF
Paula Deen can't apologize enough to stop the bleeding -- Kmart and Sears are now cutting ties with her in the wake of the n-word controversy ... TMZ has learned.
Sears Holdings -- owner of Sears and Kmart stores -- tells us, "After careful consideration of all available information, we have made the decision to phase out all products tied to [Paula Deen's] brand."
But the retail giants -- which carry Deen's cookware and dishware lines -- seem to be guilty of a little fence-sitting, because they added ... "We will continue to evaluate the situation."
Yesterday Home Depot, Target, and QVC also jumped ship ... following the Food Network's lead.
What's that saying about a pound of flesh?