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As Paula Deen tries to rebuild her business empire amid dropped deals and a harassment lawsuit that led her to reveal that she previously used the N-word, the longtime cook at her Lady & Sons restaurant is revealing new allegations of racism.
Dora Charles, who claims Deen referred to her as a soul sister, helped open Deen’s Savannah restaurant and served as a chef and culinary expert. But Charles also claims Deen used racial slurs and treated her employees in a way that would suggest an underlying prejudice, she reveals in a new interview with The New York Times.
Charles was reportedly treated as a close friend, with Deen writing in her 2007 memoir that she would be devastated if she lost Charles and, Charles claims, Deen promising that they would get rich together. Charles now says she wishes she had that in writing.
Indeed, despite their close relationship, Deen referred to Charles and others using a racially offensive term for a black child, the longtime cook claims.
Deen also wanted Charles to ring a dinner bell in front of the restaurant and holler for people to come and get it, Charles claims.
“I said, ‘I’m not ringing no bell,'” she told The Times. “That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day.”
Another employee, Ineata Jones, ended up ringing the bell and Charles says Deen wanted Jones to dress like Aunt Jemima.
Deen’s publicity team denied Charles’ allegations: “Fundamentally Dora’s complaint is not about race but about money. It is about an employee that, despite over 20 years of generosity, feels that she still deserves yet even more financial support from Paula Deen.”
Charles says she doesn’t want money from Deen. “I’m just trying to put my story out there that she didn’t treat me fairly, and I was her soul sister,” she told The Times.
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