Paula Deen: Inside Her Career Meltdown

06/26/2013 at 08:00 AM EDT

Paula Deen: Inside Her Career Meltdown
Paula Deen
First, an explosive deposition emerged in which Paula Deen admitted to uttering the N-word. Then Deen fumbled not one, but three awkward apology videos.

Finally, after Food Network announced they were axing one of their biggest stars, the Queen of Southern Food decided on a different crisis strategy: Silence.

Lately, however, the one person Deen seems to hurt most is herself.

Holed up over the weekend at home in Savannah, Ga., with husband Michael Groover and her sons Jamie and Bobby, Deen, 66, "is beyond devastated," a producer friend tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story.



"She isn't upset about the loss of money," adds the source. "She's really upset about her reputation. She has been speaking to her friends to make sure they're okay. She would die if she lost people who she really loves over this."

It seems she's only made enemies in recent days. Her public disgrace has put Deen in the center of heated debates in which restaurant critic Frank Bruni – once a champion of Deen during her diabetes scandal – wrote in The New York Times that she was "a Confederate caricature" whose controversial responses in her deposition prove that the TV personality's "worst ingredient isn't corn syrup or Crisco but willful obtuseness."

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Deen fans lined up for almost three hours to get into her Savannah restaurant The Lady & Sons to show their support. They're also sharing their outrage online, even vowing to boycott the network on its Facebook page in light of Deen's firing.



"Paula has a sense of humor that includes saying inappropriate things just to see [people's] reaction," says the producer friend. "It's not meant to hurt anyone. Paula goes through her life trying to not hurt people."

A source close to Deen adds, "Paula is trying to figure out what is next for herself."

For more details about Deen's shocking testimony, what former employees have to say about her and what's next for the shamed chef, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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