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Paula Deen's $75M comeback: To open $20M restaurant, admits crippling depression

Celebrity chef Paula Deen fell into a deep depression and began stress-eating after her N-word scandal erupted last summer.

Paula Deen stages comeback: Reveals post-scandal depression -slide0
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Paula Deen details post-scandal depression, overeating: Her weight loss and diet plan.
Paula Deen details post-scandal depression, overeating: Her weight loss and diet plan.John Parra/Getty Images

Paula was so depressed she was unable to get out of bed some days. "When I woke up each morning, it was like my world was crashing down again," Deen told People Feb. 26.

Deen's reputation and multi-millionaire food empire were shattered after she admitted in a June 2013 deposition to having used the N-word years ago at her Georgia restaurant. The revelation came after a former employee filed a discrimination lawsuit against Deen and her brother Earl.

After the scandal, Paula, 67, lost her Food Network contract and almost all her lucrative endorsements. She coped with the fallout by overeating and wallowing in self-pity.

"I made eight cakes in six days," said Deen, who lost 40 pounds in 2012 after her type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

Deen is now trying to blaze a comeback after inking a $75 million deal with Najafi Companies, a Phoenix-based investment firm, to launch Paul Deen Ventures. The new umbrella company will oversee all her restaurants, cookbooks, a retail store, and product endorsement deals.

As part of her restructuring, Deen also plans to open a $20 million restaurant called Paula Deen's Family Kitchen, located next to Dolly Parton's Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. "I'm fighting to get my name back," said Deen. "I used to have dreams that I lost everything. And when it finally happens, you think, 'I'm still alive.' "

Paula said she has been getting lots of therapy to cope with her depression. "I have been on a very erratic little journey with a psychologist I respect so much," she said. "I hang on every word he says." Deen, author of Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible, said the support from her fans has also helped her heal. "If it wasn't for my fans' love, I'd be home breathing into a paper bag," she said.