(CNN) – Paula Deen has been down for the past several months, but she won’t be counted out.
The 67-year-old celebrity chef is slowly rebuilding her career in food after it imploded last year when she admitted to previously using a racial slur.
And she says she is finding inspiration in what might seem an unusual place given her past troubles.
“I feel like ‘embattled’ or ‘disgraced’ will always follow my name,” she tells People magazine, in a recent cover article. “It’s like that black football player who recently came out,” she said, referring to NFL prospect and former University of Missouri football standout, Michael Sam.
“He (Sam) said, ‘I just want to be known as a football player. I don’t want to be known as a gay football player.’ I know exactly what he’s saying.”
The former doyenne of Southern also tells People about her life since last June when she acknowledged in a deposition that she’d used the “N” word in the past.
The deposition was part of a lawsuit filed against Deen by a former employee who alleged she witnessed the Southern star commit numerous acts of violence, discrimination and racism. (The lawsuit was later dismissed.)
It’s the support from her fans, Deen tells People, that’s enabled her to get back up after last summer’s controversy stripped her of sponsors and her gig as a Food Network personality.
“If it wasn’t for my fans’ love, I’d be home breathing into a paper bag,” Deen says. “When I woke up each morning, it was like my world was crashing down again. … I’m fighting to get my name back.”
It looks like Deen’s efforts may be paying off. Within the past month, Deen has made a warmly welcomed appearance at the recent South Beach Wine and Food festival), has announced a new company, Paula Deen Ventures, and confirmed she’s planning to open a new restaurant in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
By Breeanna Hare