Paula Deen is back in the kitchen. The former Food Network star, 67, stopped by the Today show on Wednesday, Sept. 23, making a rare appearance after a rocky year and a half.
With her sons Bobby and Jamie Deen by her side, Paula caught up with NBC's Matt Lauer about what she sees for her future and how she feels now about her racist scandal of June 2013. Lauer, 56, opened the segment by welcoming the Deens, before offering a retrospective on the Southern chef's fall from grace after she admitted to using the n-word in a deposition.
"I looked at none of it," Deen said of the footage Lauer aired from the food star's troubled time. "I didn't recognize that woman. That was a woman in trauma, in, I would say, shock, trying to understand what had happened."
Deen appeared on Today in June 2013 and broke down while speaking to Lauer about the scandal days after the news initially broke. "The cold hard fact is, I probably should not have been here," she said of the previous appearance. "I probably should have been at home, maybe even under the care of a doctor."
The Paula's Home Cooking personality then spent some time away from the spotlight. "I had to remove myself and sit quietly so that I could think and see things from all angles," she said. "I've learned so much over the year. I really feel like it's gonna require another book. We are working on a documentary, because I feel like everybody needs to know the whole entire story."
The story is one that Paula and her children think should be told. After the deposition was made public, Paula was dropped by the Food Network and lost most of her endorsement deals. She noted that the year taught her a lot, and she came out on the other side a different person.
"I've always been very, very naive," she admitted. "Unless you do something that I can see that you're trying to hurt me, in my heart, you're good. That's childlike, and it's naive. I'm trying to be more guarded. I don't ever want to get to the point where I'm cynical because I believe that there are more good people than bad."
While there was widespread criticism and hatred for Paula after the story went public, she also received kind words from some fans.
"We really found a lot of support through that year," Jamie said. "People reached out to Bobby and I and the restaurant, and offered their support for mom and wanted to check on her. It was really a hard time."
Deen made no mistake of taking accountability for said "hard time," admitting that she hurt a lot of people with her words and actions.
"The most powerful thing, and I thought I knew it because I've talked about it before, but it's the power of words," she said. "I don't care how old they are. Words are so powerful. They can hurt, they can make people happy — well, my words hurt people. They disappointed people. Frankly, I disappointed myself. For that, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry for the hurt that I caused people because it went deep. It went deep. People lost their jobs, it went deep into corporate America. I'm here to make people happy, not to bring sadness."
Paula hopes to return to bringing happiness with her next venture, a digital project called The Paula Deen Network. The subscription-based service now owns all of Paula's Food Network shows, and expanded with planned new programming, which is expected to hit 20 new installments per week.
Watch Paula open up to Lauer in the video above.