Celebrity cook Paula Deen fought back tears as she was greeted by a standing-ovation crowd during an appearance at a Houston cooking show Saturday.
“These are tears of joy, y’all,” Deen told the audience of about 1,500 at the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show, the Houston Chronicle reports.
“I’ve said all along that the one place I’d want to make my first step back out is Texas. Y’all’s hearts are as big as your state.”
This was Deen’s first public appearance since June after it was revealed that in an earlier legal deposition she acknowledged using racial slurs in the past. Within a few days the Food Network yanked her show off the air, Smithfield Foods dropped her as a celebrity endorser, and retailers such as Wal-Mart removed her products from shelves.
But the discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit was dismissed completely in August.
Houston resident Sherry Carter and her daughters, Shana Randle and Michelle Sanders, were among a handful of black fans in the audience. Carter said the allegations hadn’t turned them against Deen.
“When I first heard about it, my feeling was, she got caught,” Carter told the Chronicle. “Just about everyone I know has used the word. At least she was honest about it.”
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Four friends from the Fulshear-Richmond area wore sashes and carried placards with Deen’s photo to show their support.
Stephanie Young said they had the placards from last year’s show; the sashes were a last-minute addition that she made Friday night for fellow supporters Kelly Eldridge, Sue Yoder and her daughter-in-law, Alix Yoder.
“We wanted to step it up because she’s had a rough year,” Young said. “We want her back on TV, and we love her.”
Deen put on two cooking demonstrations, appearing with sons Bobby and Jamie Deen, who also have cooking shows, cookbooks and their own followings.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.