Paula Deen: How Many Millions Is N-Word Scandal Going to Cost Her?

Deen's No. 4 rank on Forbes' list of top-earning celebrity chefs is definitely at risk, according to a writer for the mag

By Natalie Finn and Baker Machado
|  Tuesday, Jun 25, 2013  |  Updated 4:44 PM EDT
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Paula Deen Apologizes

Paula Deen

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Paula Deen's Second Apology

In a 46-second video posted on YouTube, Paula Deen offered up an apology for using "inappropriate, hurtful language." In this second video, Deen apologized for failing to show up for a scheduled interview on "Today" Friday to discuss her admission that she's used racial slurs in the past.

Paula Deen Apologizes

Embattled Food Network star Paula Deen released a video statement addressing her past use of racial slurs, which overnight became a national scandal. In the clip, Deen appears visibly upset and at times close to tears. "I beg for your forgiveness.... please forgive me for the mistakes that I've made," she said.
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Just how much of a hole did Paula Deen dig for herself?

With the Food Network's announcement that it would not be renewing its contract with the Paula's Home Cooking star, along with QVC distancing itself from the celebrity chef and Smithfield Foods cutting ties with her altogether after she admitted to past use of the N-word and other hurtful remarks, it would seem that Deen's culinary empire is currently up in flames.

But her bank account isn't under as much fire as one might think.

Sure, her ranking as Forbes' No. 4 highest-earning celeb chef is definitely at risk...but all is not lost just yet.

"I would estimate the loss of Food Network and Smithfield to be pretty huge," Forbes staff writer Caleb Melby, who estimates that Deen has taken a post-scandal hit of $3 million to $4.5 million, tells E! News. "The important thing is a ripple effect. Without the Food Network,which is her primary platform for promoting her Smithfield hams and cookbooks and magazines, how is that going to affect the categories that this [loss of exposure] doesn't directly effect?"

According to the magazine, Deen made $4.5 million in 2008 and has been on an upward trajectory every since, banking $17 million in 2012.

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But, per Forbes, "only" $2.5 million of that was coming from Food Network, which was paying her roughly $50,000 per episode.

Deen's empire also includes a magazine, cook books, a home furnishing line, independent TV appearances, restaurants and licensing deals with Walmart, Serta mattresses and Kaleen Rugs. Forbes also reports that her role as a spokeswoman for pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk--a deal she made after announcing that she has type 2 diabetes--is worth $6 million.

"What we see, and this is where the dominos are falling right now, where she makes most of her money is licensing and merchandising at 32 percent," says Melby. "So when we see Smithfield pulling out and QVC considering pulling out, that could be a huge blow to her earning capacity. But, let's say she loses every licensing and endorsing agreement, we are still looking at her making about $7 million a year."

Melby also points out that Deen's upcoming appearance on "Today"--in another controversial move, she skipped a sit-down with Matt Lauer last week--is going to be scrutinized like a fallen souffle.

"She grossly underestimated the importance of her first apology," he says. "It was very euphemistic; she didn't address any of the concerns specifically, which caused a lot of people to become angry, and then she had that weird, rambling video [that was later yanked from YouTube] which confused anybody who wasn't angry at this point.

"The Today show interview will give her the opportunity to do what she does best: Be candid, be motherly, be funny," Melby adds. "That's what has created her loyal fan base up into this point."

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