- Associated Press - Friday, February 24, 2012

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (AP) - A month after being widely criticized for revealing she has diabetes _ as well as a lucrative endorsement deal for a drug to treat it _ Paula Deen says she’s ready to show a lighter side to her famously fatty Southern-style cooking.

Just don’t expect her to swear off butter.

“I am who I am. But what I will be doing is offering up lighter versions of my recipes,” the longtime Food Network star told The Associated Press during an interview at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival on Friday.

“I will have a broader platform now, trying to do something for everybody,” she said. “But you know, I’m Southern by roots. I was taught (to cook) by my grandmother and nothing I can do would change that.”

Last month, Deen drew the ire of many in the health and culinary worlds when she announced that nearly three years before she had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Roughly 23 million Americans are believed to have Type 2 diabetes, a condition blamed in part on obesity and unhealthy lifestyles.

During those years, she continued to promote her butter- and bacon-laden cooking on television and in books and magazines, and to profit from lucrative endorsement deals with companies such as Smithfield ham and Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

But the harshest criticism was triggered by her simultaneous announcement that she also would be a paid pitch person for drug maker Novo Nordisk’s new online program, Diabetes in a New Light, and for its pricy drug, Victoza, which she takes.

Many wondered why she appeared to wait until she had a paying endorsement before revealing her diagnosis.

“Yes, I am being compensated,” she said Friday. “It’s the way of the world. It’s the American way. But I am taking a portion of that compensation and giving it back to the (American) Diabetes Association.”

Deen would not say how much she is being paid or what portion would be donated.

And she dismissed the idea that she should have announced her diagnosis sooner, citing her longstanding battle with agoraphobia.

“It took me 20 years to come out and stand up and say, `Hey, my name’s Paula and I’m agoraphobic,’” she said. “I was so ashamed, so embarrassed. So to do it in two-and-a-half years, I thought it was pretty good.”

Deen, who is 65, shrugged off the criticism _ including by some fellow celebrity chefs _ saying her fans have stood by her.

“I think a few people who have access to a TV camera and ink kind of wanted to hate on me for coming down with something,” she said. “But I so don’t worry about it.”

Deen lives in Savannah, Ga., where she ran a successful catering business, wrote a best-selling cookbook and opened an acclaimed restaurant, The Lady & Sons, before launching “Paula’s Home Cooking” on the Food Network in 1999. She won a Daytime Emmy as Outstanding Lifestyle Host in 2007, and has branched out to cookware, foods and furniture bearing her name.

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