The New York Times published a scathing new article on Thursday in which Dora Charles, a black cook who has worked for and been friends with Paula Deen for over 22 years, blows the lid off of extreme racism she endured while employed.
During an interview from her home in Savannah, Georgia, Charles paints a picture of Deen’s rise to fame through the prism of their relationship. While Charles was making $10 an hour, she claims that Deen “don’t treat me the way they think she treat me,” claiming that Deen even once said to her, “Stick with me, Dora, and I promise you one day if I get rich you’ll get rich.”
The most troubling anecdote from the new article? … That Deen allegedly wanted another chef at the Lady & Sons (the Savannah restaurant that launched Deen’s career) — a woman named Ineata Jones — to dress like Aunt Jemima.
Charles claims that Deen used Jones for restaurant theater, and asked the hoecake cook to stand in the front of the restaurant and ring an iron dinner bell. According to the Times, an image of Jones performing this task was turned into a postcard later sold at Deen’s stores.
However, Charles — who says that she has heard Deen use racial slurs — said that she refused to ring the bell when asked to do so by Deen. “I said, ‘I’m not ringing no bell … That’s a symbol to me of what we used to do back in the day.'”
Deen denies Charles’s allegations in a statement issued to the Times through her publicity team. “Fundamentally Dora’s complaint is not about race but about money,” the statement reads. “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.”
Even though Charles still works for Paula Deen, she said she didn’t pursue legal action because “I didn’t have nobody to stand behind me.”
Deen’s representative issued a statement, saying:
“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.”