On Wednesday, June 19, 2013, the National Enquirer released transcripts from a deposition taken from noted TV chef Paula Deen in a racial and sexual discrimination suit by a former employee. According to her testimony, Deen replied, “Yes, of course,” when asked if she ever used the “N-word,” and also admitted to telling racial jokes “in the past.” Deen went on to place this in context, describing an incident early in her first marriage when a black man held a gun to her head during a bank robbery (something not likely to endear him to her), and also related instances of recounting “a conversation between blacks” to justify her use of the pejorative. Deen also admitted to briefly considering giving her brother “a true Southern plantation-style wedding” in 2007, before realizing how the media would portray that. When questioned by her restaurant manager, who is now suing her, as to what that meant, Deen allegedly replied, “Well, what I would really like is a bunch of little n*****s to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties…you know, in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around.”
The public response was immediate and devastating for the Food Network star, age 66, known for her high-fat, high-calorie, down-home Southern-style cooking. On June 21st, Food Network executives decided not to renew her contract when it expired at the end of the month, costing Deen her salary of $50,000 per episode and bringing their 11-year relationship to an end. Not content with the future, Food Network is apparently trying to rewrite the past, pulling all old episodes of her series from syndication — she has simply vanished from the air.
Smithfield Foods (of Virginia Ham fame), with whom she has had an endorsement contract since 2006, cut ties on June 24th, and retail outlets Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot followed suit on the 26th, stating they would no longer carry inventory on her line of cookware, health and wellness products, and fresh food items. On the 27th, Deen lost another endorsement contract with Novo Nordisk, manufacturer of diabetes drugs. (Deen had been diagnosed with the disease in 2009 but did not alter her cooking style or disclose her illness until 2012, when she announced her endorsement deal with the Danish pharmaceutical company whose main export is insulin.) Caesars Entertainment also stripped her name from four buffet casino restaurants in which they had partnered with Deen, who still co-owns two restaurants in Savannah with her sons and brother.
The litany of corporate rats leaving the sinking Deen ship rolls on — by Friday June 28th, Deen had lost product deals with Kmart, Sears, Walgreens and J.C. Penney. Also on the 28th, Ballantine Books announced they would not be publishing her forthcoming cookbook, Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Recipes, All Lightened Up (despite a huge increase — more than 1000% — on pre-orders for the new book at Amazon.com since the story broke) and was also canceling her five-book contract.
The plunge down the rabbit hole seems complete for Deen, recently named the fourth highest-earning chef in America by Forbes magazine, which estimated a gross income of roughly $17 million in 2012 for the Southern cuisine diva. The rise to fame and wealth was a stupendous one for the Albany, Georgia native, who began her culinary career as “The Bag Lady,” selling box lunches from her home kitchen in 1989, developing this into a full-fledged catering business and then opening her first restaurant, “The Lady & Sons” in Savannah in 1996. She self-published her first two cookbooks in 1997, and 11 more have followed, with the 14th to have been released this fall by Ballantine. She has also written an autobiography, It Ain’t All About the Cookin (in which she relates a story of being blocked by Food Network when she wanted to present her viewers with her recipe for a “Sambo burger”). Television came calling in 2002 in the form of the Food Network, when the “Paula’s Home Cooking” series premiered, shot in her home kitchen, followed by “Paula’s Party” (2006) and “Paula’s Best Dishes” (2008).
After canceling an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today show on Friday June 21st, Deen released a video apology on YouTube, where she stated, “Your color of your skin, your religion, your sexual preference does not matter to me, but it’s what’s in the heart, and my family and I try to live by that. I offer my sincere apology to those that I have hurt and I hope that you forgive me because this comes from the deepest part of my heart.” Deen later rescheduled with the Today show and appeared live on Wednesday the 26th in a tearful, sobbing segment reminiscent of Tammy Faye Bakker. Giving answers somewhat sympathetic, but also somewhat inconsistent, Deen stated, “I’m no actress, what you see is what you get. … I is what I is, and I’m not changin’,” a declaration of dubious utility given the circumstances.
Born on January 19, 1947 (time unknown), Paula Deen’s chart reveals a driven, career-oriented individual, with a potential for business success but also devastating loss. A mini-stellium of Sun, Mercury, and Mars in late Capricorn is joined by centaur Pholus and asteroid Paula, the last possibly subconsciously suggesting to her parents the name they would give her.
The Sun at 28° Capricorn with Mars at 25° suggests someone driven and energetic, with a strong will and a desire to excel. But there can also be a spontaneity to that placement which can prove a handicap, especially with Mars also conjoined by Mercury at 26° Capricorn, which can evoke sudden outbursts or unfortunate statements without due consideration of the consequences. There isn’t a lot of verbal control with this pairing, but Mercury’s detail orientation and communication skills and Mars’ tireless energy do add to the business acumen suggested by the strong focus on Capricorn, which also houses the Moon (its degree unknown, but in that sign all day), a perfect alignment for a cooking (Moon) professional (Capricorn). Pholus here at 24° Capricorn is also unfortunate, as it relates among other things to a certain level of toxicity, in this case allied to Mercury’s rulership of communication, sometimes capable of sparking mean-spirited or poisonous utterances.
But perhaps the most difficult aspect of this combination is the Sun’s placement directly in the cross-hairs of a Galactic Grand Cross, comprised of an exact conjunction with the Pulsar at 28° Capricorn, an exact opposition to one Black Hole at 28° Cancer, an exact square to another at 28° Libra, and a looser square to a third Black Hole at 26° Aries. Pulsars are stellar remnants which rotate rapidly, emitting radio or x-ray signals at regular intervals. They are informational in nature, and persons with strong contacts often gravitate to the media, as Deen finally did with the TV work which made her a national celebrity. Black Holes, the remnants of stars which have collapsed into pinpoints of such gravitational power that not even light can escape them, are very difficult to deal with. They can provide enormous reserves of energy, not always easy to tap into, but also sap strength and vitality, and tend to build one up only to tear one down. Their essence is one of change and transformation, a sudden, sweeping and unexpected alteration in the status quo, and they can be devastating in their effects. Deen’s stupendous and breathtaking fall from grace, with the virtual self-implosion of her empire within days, is typical of the kind of havoc they can wreak when roused. In particular, her total disappearance from the Food Network airwaves, no longer available even in rerun, is classically Black Hole in nature, making her effectively invisible.
The Sun and Mercury also oppose asteroid Pandora at 29° Cancer, making Deen subject to the release of unintended consequences of a disastrous nature, simply by being who she is (Sun) or via statements she has made (Mercury). Pandora’s conjunction with the Black Hole at 28° Cancer, conjoined by transit Venus (worth or value) at the height of the corporate bailout, is likely the spur for this sudden turnabout of fortune.
Current transits and eclipses colluded with Deen’s fall. Neptune had come to its retrograde station at 5° Pisces less than two weeks before the Enquirer story broke, from where it was exactly conjoined her natal asteroid Damocles, that point of doom hanging unseen and unsuspected overhead. The Lunar Eclipse of May 25th at 4° Sagittarius also t-squared Damocles, activating it further and evoking its latent potential for destruction.
Additionally, the ground was well prepared weeks before the May 17th deposition, when a Lunar Eclipse at 5° Scorpio, conjoined transit Saturn, exactly squared her natal Saturn at 5° Leo on April 25th, activating career matters but also potentially engendering loss or limitation. That point is natally conjunct Pluto at 12° Leo, this combination promoting a steely determination to succeed and attracting the many millions of dollars Deen has accrued, but also creating the possibility of a devastating collapse in career ambitions at some point in the life.
When Deen’s statements became public knowledge on June 19th, an exact transiting square between Mars and wound-maker Chiron at 13° Gemini and Pisces was exactly conjoined by asteroid Phaeton at 13° Gemini, the whole forming a t-square with natal Venus at 12° Sagittarius, to which transiting Uranus at 12° Aries was exactly trine. Mars represents Deen’s actions, while Chiron suggests nonconformist, maverick behaviors causing a fatal wound, and Phaeton signals a sudden, explosive and total breakdown or self-created destruction. All of this became focused on natal Venus’ emphasis on earning potential, personal values and ethics, with Uranus providing a severe shock to the system. Mars/Phaeton was also just coming into orb with natal Uranus at 18° Gemini, ruling shocking, controversial acts or statements, and linked to racist attitudes in the form of its rulership of xenophobia, a fear of “alien” persons.
There was also an exact union of the Sun and Jupiter at 28° Gemini that day, exactly inconjunct Deen’s 28° Capricorn Sun, and focusing attention (Sun) on her life philosophy or beliefs, reputation and social status, and interactions with the court (all Jupiter).
Perhaps most telling is a combination of transiting asteroid Paula at 23° Pisces exactly opposed natal asteroid Nemesis at 23° Virgo, a point related to vengeance, retribution, and undoing, which was itself conjoined to natal asteroid Karma at 21° Virgo, suggesting a moment of comeuppance or a fated circumstance based in past behaviors.
It’s hard to say where all this leaves Paula, amid the tatters of her butter-braised culinary empire. Her many fans seem to be sticking by her. As mentioned above, advance orders for her next cookbook shot up more than 1000% on Amazon.com before Ballantine cancelled its publication; two of her already published cookbooks have risen to the top of the bestseller list; lines still stretch around the block for her Savannah restaurant, and the Food Network’s Facebook page is blowing up with angry messages decrying the decision not to renew her contract. She may one day rise phoenix-like from the fallen soufflé of her ambition, a la Martha Stewart. But for now, the mistress of Southern comfort food appears to be one very dead duck, with or without orange sauce.
Bio: Alex Miller is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of “The Galactic Calendar,” and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society. His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. His work with deep space points and asteroids appears monthly at DayKeeper Journal. Alex can be reached for comment or services at firstname.lastname@example.org