opportunist crusader Paula Deen hams it up on the absolutely-not-Photoshopped-we're-sure cover of People this week flanked by her newly svelte sons, touting her family's amazing weight loss (they shed a total of 178 pounds and proclaim, "If the Deens can do it, anyone can!"). But it's really no shock that People got the inside story on her dieting habits: They write about her all the time. Suspicious? Ahead, we rank the puffery possibilities (up to 100 points each) of each hard-hitting scoop.
February 2005: Deen merits a passing mention in People's TV listings. They call her a "Savannah chef" in a piece about the "Stupor Bowl."
Puff Points: Zero. This is a non-story.
July 2007: As her fame grows, so does her ego. "I just hate it when someone comes up to me and shoves a cell phone in my face and says, 'Please talk to my mother' — or sister, or whoever. I don't know where the cell phone has been, I'm sharing germs with someone now, and I don't know what they have," she vents.
Puff Points: +10. Her PR team gets props for showing how very in demand she is, but you can tell she hasn't yet mastered the art of the quote.
September 2008: But she'll happily share a meal with the Obamas! She tells People that Michelle Obama has amazing arms. Maybe too amazing? She cannily offers to make them fried chicken at the White House.
Puff Points: +95. Scoring chummy time with the Obamas, even pre-White House, is pretty key.
November 2009: She is hit in the face with a ham.
Puff Points: -6. There is really no dazzling way to spin this.
June 2010: Things get worse. An employee is accused of stealing Deen's jewelry. She tells the magazine that she refuses to be "hardened."
Puff Points: +80. She's a vulnerable victim and a thick-skinned warrior.
June 2010: Speaking of hard things: She bounces back in time to tell People at the CMT Music Awards that she could "grate cheese" on the Situation's abs.
Puff Points: -4. This quote seems pretty desperate to appear relevant.
April 2011: People declares that Kellie Pickler is not Paula Deen.
Puff Points: +5. This is positive, maybe?
August 2011: Anthony Bourdain spews forth with his hatred for all things Deen, calling her "dangerous." She fires back that someone must have "peed in his cereal."
Puff Points: +60. She covers the edgy factor with her association with Bourdain, but someone should've issued a bodily-function-free statement on her behalf.
January 2012: It's a big week for Paula: She celebrates her 65th birthday at a clandestine location. She also announces her decision to give up sweet tea. Oh yeah, and she tells the world that she has diabetes.
Puff Points: +178. Paula hits the jackpot with this celebrity trifecta: party at a secret locale; disclosure of a vice; and a revelation about a life-threatening illness, told in a sympathetic way.
February 2012: The perils of fame wear on. She is snapped hoovering a burger on a cruise ship.
Puff Points: -10. This is a damning photo.
March 2012: First come the tabloid photos; then come the lawsuits. Deen and fam are sued by a manager at her Uncle Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House. She is accused of making racist jokes. A rep refuses to comment to People. Troubling! Just the week before, she declared to the mag that she's "dropped two pant sizes!" Speaking of pants: In the same lawsuit, her brother is accused of loving porn and hating fat girls in capris.
Puff Points: Zero. It's a draw here. She loses points with the porny bro and the racism, but she's back in touch with her public after that pants triumph.
June 2012: Her reps are more forthcoming when Deen offers to open her fridge (and her heart) to the mag to discuss her 30-pound post-diabetes weight loss.
Puff Points: +100. Basically a publicist's dream.
July 2012: A mere week later, People capitalizes on the access and offers a full feature on her lust for smoothies, complete with her posing coquettishly with a blender. (We're guessing this was all part of the same feature and everyone's on vacation.)
Puff Points: +98. Deducting points for the slight whiff of desperation. We just saw her kitchen last week!
July 2012: Her confessions worked! People calls her the "great Paula Deen, arguably the reigning lady of Southern cuisine."
Puff Points: +99. Epitaphs are usually reserved for their "Passages" column!
November 2012: Just two months before revealing their miraculous weight-loss secrets, sons Jamie and Bobby reveal something even more startling: their recipe for chocolate-caramel clusters.
Puff Points: +30. Nice holiday timing. But it rings hollow given future revelations.
January 2013: She tells the magazine in her cover story that, when first diagnosed with diabetes, she had "no solutions." Except Novartis, that is!
Puff Points: +100, again. A People cover story is another score, and the magazine appears happy to keep pushing Deen's questionable healthy-living message.