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Media, Money and Morality: Paula Deen's use of social media to communicate as an image repair strategy

Track: Organizational Behavior & Theory

Keywords: celebrity, Paula Deen, social media

Celebrity chef and entrepreneur Paula Deen triggered a social media firestorm in June 2013 after she admitted, during a legal deposition, of using the ‘N-word” in the past. After nine days of media appearances and a social media frenzy, eleven of Deen’s sponsors severed ties that included sponsorships, products and future book deals. Almost immediately, Deen issued a formal apology. Using Benoit’s image repair theory, this essay looks at how Deen represented and defended herself during interviews, statements and social media. Findings indicate that she used many image repair strategies that proved to be unsuccessful at that time. In the short-term the media framed Paula Deen as a celebrity coming undone. However, one year later Deen’s image began to improve as the media transitioned to a more positive portrayal. Nine months after the 2013 deposition, she created a new company, Paula Deen Ventures and soon after she opened a new restaurant proving that some celebrities can survive scandals quite successfully.


Carol Stewart -
Southern CT State University

Betsy Rosenblum -
Southern CT State University


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