Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Paula Deen: From Food to Furniture

Culinary Queen Rules at Furniture Market

By Lynne Brandon

High Point, NC - They say when you hit rock bottom, it’s a good place because there ain’t no where else to go but up. I believe this to be true. So do millions of hard working women who have scraped, borrowed and begged to keep the basic necessities of life on the table and on their backs.

No one knows the meaning of hard times better than everyone’s favorite Southern cook, Paula Deen. Life was not always as rosy as it is now for the celebrity culinary queen who is enjoying a successful television show, cookbook royalties, multiple homes and a loving husband. Now, she is enjoying putting her touch on home furnishings with her comfortable and chic line at Universal Furniture.

Paula was recently in High Point, North Carolina, where she was holding court as only she can do, at the International Furniture Market meeting industry professionals and excited fans. This time the product was her furniture line and not food that she put her stamp on.

Before cooking changed her life, the home and its amenities were what comforted Paula Deen who is a recovering agoraphobic. For 20 years she did not leave her home which became her sanctuary. When she had the courage to venture out, Paula poked around at yard sales for ways to enhance her home. “My world was wrapped up in the house,” Paula said. “Decorating was a natural outgrowth of those years and it fed my soul before food. My furniture is about comfort and it wraps its arms around you.”

Paula’s furniture fits the American lifestyle and reflects her need for comfort and beauty. Her comfort with her life, skin and home was a natural fit for developing a furniture line that signifies the Southern lifestyle. The Paula Deen furniture line is a marriage of “southern comfort” meets French Country.

Adoring fans and industry professionals flocked to High Point to see the white haired beauty who at 63 years old still commands an audience. She entered the showroom with dazzling blue eyes sparkling and gleaming white teeth set into a creamy complexion enhanced even more by her childlike enthusiasm for her fans. “Hey, y’all!” she waves.

Speaking with Paula is like sitting down with your favorite Aunt Mary. When asked why so many people connect with her she replied, “I remind people of someone they love, whether it is their aunt, sister, mother or friend.” She has the rare gift of making her audience of one feel as if they are the center of her world for that moment. Her southern hospitality shows and she listens intently to what you have to say.

While signing her decorating book, “Savannah Style” for fans, Paula related the story of her life and some of the steps she took along the way to success. It was not a quick journey and she admits to being a late bloomer. “She is a woman of substance” said Paula’s aunt, Peggy Ort, who was with her. “She realized late in life that she had to get out and make a living. She had to keep going but hard things are character building.”

The Southern Culinary Queen shows no signs of stopping. Cookbooks, restaurants, a bi-monthly magazine, and her own show, “Paula’s Home Cooking” keeps Paula on the road and in her favorite room of the home, the kitchen. With heady accomplishments at every turn, Paula s remains grounded in the simple things of life; family, friends and great food. “I never forget where I am from,” said Paula. “My life is a gift, it’s not a given. None of us are owed anything.”

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