As the Sept. 2 “Good Morning America” announcement grows near, rumors continue to fly about "Dancing With the Stars" and its Season 21 celebrity cast. E! News reported Wednesday that former Food Network star Paula Deen would be among the Hollywood hoofers. Were the rumor to bear out, it would be the latest return to the spotlight for the embattled celebrity chef, who fell from grace when a videotaped deposition showed her admitting to using racist jokes and slurs.
The 2013 controversy wasn’t the end of Deen’s woes. The chef made headlines again in July when her Twitter account tweeted a picture of her son Bobby Deen dressed as Ricky Ricardo, complete with brown makeup to darken his complexion.
Deen’s potential inclusion in the new season of “DWTS” would be a curious move for ABC, as it could be perceived as helping in rehabilitating the star’s image. It also would be an odd choice considering the show's own troubled history with race. The series had its own blackface drama in 2013, when Julianne Hough, former pro, current judge, darkened her hair and donned blackface for Halloween in an attempt to capture the essence of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren from “Orange Is the New Black.”
There’s also the question of under-representation of black dancers among the resident pros on the series. The first black pro dancer, South African Keoikantse Motsepe, was not added to the roster until the premiere of the 19th season in late 2014. Despite the show’s relative success with casting diverse celebrity contestants, the pro lineup continues to be a lingering issue as the show heads into its 21st iteration.
This would be the third time Deen has been approached by the show to join its ranks. Deen's attempts to rehabilitate her career have included appearing on the "Today" show to apologize and launching an online subscription-based network in 2014, featuring her recipes and videos.
Deen would be joining 17-year-old Bindi Irwin, daughter of late wildlife expert Steve Irwin; Backstreet Boy Nick Carter; and famed jockey Victor Espinoza, winner of the 2015 Triple Crown. They all have been confirmed for the forthcoming season of ABC’s dance competition show. Chaka Khan is also rumored to be among the celebrities cast in the upcoming season. The new season debuts Sept. 14.
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