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(USA TODAY) Paula Deenis continuing to try to launch her comeback.

The celeb chef, whose world crumbled nine months ago after she admitted using the n-word, told a crowd at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival in Miami Beachlast weekend that she is "back in the saddle," and now she's tellingPeoplemagazine in the issue hitting stands on Friday, "If it wasn't for my fans' love, I'd be home breathing into a paper bag."

Deen says, "I'm fighting to get my name back," adding, "I feel like 'embattled' or 'disgraced' will always follow my name. It's like that black football player who recently came out," says Deen, referring to NFL prospect Michael Sam. "He said, 'I just want to be known as a football player. I don't want to be known as a gay football player.' I know exactly what he's saying."

At her lowest, Deen says, she took comfort in the kitchen. "I made eight cakes in six days," she tellsPeople.The crazed baking prompted her husband of nearly 10 years, Michael Groover, 58, to tell her, "Honey, I don't know if I'm going to survive this," she recalls.

"I used to have dreams that I lost everything," Deen goes on to say. "And when it finally happens, you think, 'I'm still alive.'" As for what's she's learned, she says, "Michael told me, 'You've learned how badly words can hurt and how powerful they are.' I have been hurt by them, and I unintentionally hurt others. But I don't want that to define who I am."

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