Meet Hollis Johnson, the Man Paula Deen Calls Her ‘Black Sheep’

Here's what we know about her longtime friend and bodyguard.

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Peter Kramer / NBC / AP

In the wake of the controversy surrounding Paula Deen’s use of the N-word and other remarks about race, one of the more interesting players has remained surprisingly quiet: Hollis Johnson, Deen’s close friend, bodyguard, and sometime intermediary. “He calls himself Paula’s son even though their complexions sure don’t match,” writes Deen’s husband, Michael Groover, in My Delicious Life with Paula Deen. “She calls him the ‘black sheep’ of the family.” She also somewhat infamously called him “black as this board”—gesturing to a dark backdrop—in a video of a talk she gave with the New York Times last fall. TIME reached out to Johnson (who also owns a transportation service in Savannah, Georgia) for his take on recent events, but we haven’t heard back yet. Here’s what we know so far:

1. Deen considers him her “son by another father.” At least, that’s how she referred to Johnson in that Times session, after quipping, “We can’t see you standing against that dark board!” But she soon grabbed his hand and got serious. “I love this young man,” she said. “I would travel to hell with him, and I know I can trust him with my life. And color ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.”
2. Deen’s husband calls him “one o’ my favorite people.” In My Delicious Life with Paula Deen, Groover writes at length about his family’s bond with Johnson: “Hollis is much more than a bodyguard, he’s a friend and loyal companion…He watches that [Deen] doesn’t trip when walkin’ down a flight of stairs and he watches that some overeager fan doesn’t get too close.” Groover also describes how he and Johnson hang during their travels with Deen, riding motorcycles and “tooling around” together.
3. He has tweeted publicly about his affection for Deen. In one posted image, she’s kissing him on the cheek in front of a plane. His caption, as seen above: “She loves me and I love her!!!” In another pic, he’s posing with her and Groover in a limousine.
4. He’s not homophobic anymore. As Groover writes, both he and Johnson initially felt uncomfortable around the gay men in Deen’s entourage—namely her personal assistant and design director, Brandon Branch: “I’d never had a gay friend or a gay colleague. Just didn’t know how to talk to them…Hollis Johnson, my friend who acts as Paula’s bodyguard or, as he would put it, Paula’s fourth son, was also homophobic.” After spending more time with Brandon and others, however, Groover writes that the two overcame their prejudice; in Key West, they joined Deen’s hairdresser Jamie and his partner in a gay bar.
5. He has yet to comment on those calling Deen a racist. His lone tweet since the scandal broke appears to have been either accidental—or purposefully clandestine.
35 comments
gjohnson5
gjohnson5

If one simply goes online and looks at the definition of a 'black sheep'  I wouldnt see how that person could actually like being called that.  In this case the "black sheep' or disrepudiated memeber of the Deen family is actually black.

It's only more damning evidence against her

AnotherOne
AnotherOne

Only in their opinion is she racist. They're only saying that because she's white. Anti-racist is a codeword for Anti-white.

ShirleyLRoy-Poche
ShirleyLRoy-Poche

I just love the way the media and Ms Deen insist on propagating this nonsense of the N-word being the only reason she is having so much difficulty in business - she has legal troubles stemming from law suits mounting over her lack of "reason and character" in her business dealings. There is a video she proposed to show before live performances on a chefs tour that was deemed inappropriate for general audiences and she quit the tour because she wasn't allowed to show a video which depicted her pretending a sex act with an eclair, speaking in a most inappropriate way and using quite inappropriate language - look it up and see if this is the type of thing most General audiences would like, for their kids, teens, elderly and religious audience members - Ms Deen could not see the inappropriateness of this and THAT is the problem advertisers and investors have with Ms. Deen, again she thinks it is just saying the N-word once - get a clue old lady, business people are not stupid and advertisers don't care about your Doll Eyes, they care about liability vs popularity and all you had to do was give the Plantation talk and sexual night-club talk off and just Cook but no, this is who she really is, dumb southern blonde apparently that thought interstate and international business was like dealing with the local rotary club.  Not so much bumpkin.

Getoverit227
Getoverit227

I think it's a bunch of crap what she is going through its ok for black people to call white people a cracker and nothing happens like movies and tv they can make a movie white men can't jump but if they tried to make a movie black men can't swim it would be shut down or if they wanted to start w.e.t network (white entertainment television ) people would be mad about it it's called freedom of speech and people need to getoverit

captain_cynicus
captain_cynicus

Haven't the NYC media PC police had enough of showing off their power and ability to trash southern talking, probably gentile, whites women that might have said a racial slur or other things in error that are all irrelevant as an indicator of racism?   The nationwide media and Hollywood should be required to have employment demographics analysis (ethnic, religious heritage, race) at all management levels as a true indicator of their racism.  The real definition of racism involves economically hurting people and reducing opportunities, not the use of a slur.      

mabelJ
mabelJ

Why should hhe be expected to jump into this ? Miss Paula's real sons didn't quit Food Network to protect big momma's honor .

SciFiCarolinaGuy
SciFiCarolinaGuy

"Scrod drink"? Maybe after realizing he's been protecting the wrong person, he got drunk?

BenIncaHutz
BenIncaHutz

She is continuing to show her ignorance. Slave owners kept slaves from birth to death. Are you going to say that they didnt become to have some affection to the human beings they had around them constantly? Of course they did. He is continuing to provide services to Paula. First it was security and now its a PR spin with this feel good human experience story. Paula regrets having to pay this man as like any proud Southern woman she prefers that "the help" work for free and for a life time. 

I dont fault him in the least. This is a job for him. If he sticks around then she should really appreciate his loyalty. She wont though. People of her mindset think that loyalty and integrity are traits for the lower classes.

I'm glad she has been brought to earth. I think she is too old to learn from her ways. I also think she will goto her grave thinking she was an angel with a heart of cold. Ignorance is truely bliss.

HarryDangler
HarryDangler

They had a name for him in the plantation days.

dawwwn5112
dawwwn5112

If you remember, in Driving Miss Daisy, they loved each other. She wanted to see her driver, over her son, in her last days. So what if she said something 30 years ago, it is STILL said to this day, in rap songs, and people call each other that. So what, in the name of God, is the big deal?!?!?

EudoraWelty
EudoraWelty

I really could care less if she said the "N" word or not.  Enough already.  No more pictures of black people she like.

JuiceNJam
JuiceNJam

@Getoverit227 You do realize that every other channel is White Entertainment Television, right? I'm so sorry for you that you do not understand the history of why channels like BET or magazines like Ebony and Jet were created. By the way I don't see the racism in the movie "White Men Can't Jump" because it was written and directed by a white man. Please learn something before you write something so ignorant.

AnotherOne
AnotherOne

@captain_cynicus 

Racist is an Anti-white hate word. They only call us that because were white. Anti-racist is a codeword for Anti-white.

Ann_M_Blasius
Ann_M_Blasius

@mabelJYes, her son isn't quitting the Food Network for supposedly unfairly dropping his mom. Good point. $$$ always come first over "honor" for the Deens.

christopherdanielmaxwell
christopherdanielmaxwell

@mabelJ why would you expect paula's sons to quite their jobs? - did they have anything to do with it? what the hell is behind your thinking in this????

BenIncaHutz
BenIncaHutz

@HarryDangler Dont fault him. He is doing what he needs to do to support himself. In a tough economy a paying job is a good job. As a black man I dont see him as selling out. I see him as enduring hardship to feed himself and maybe his family. 

AnotherOne
AnotherOne

@dawwwn5112 

Racist is an Anti-white hate word. They only call her that because she's white. Anti-racist is a codeword for Anti-white.

GailScottt
GailScottt

@dawwwn5112    Miss Daisy's love and affection for her driver came after her synagogue was bombed (she was Jewish) and she realized she faced the same prejudice that she has shown to her driver and maid.

mabelJ
mabelJ

@dawwwn5112 the character  in Driving Miss Daisy also had dementia in her last days .  Paula Dean public damage control appearances aside she can't use that excuse   

BenIncaHutz
BenIncaHutz

@dawwwn5112  Stop with that "But call each other that!" Its nonsense and you know it. There are plenty of words that one person can say that another can not. I can call my wife a b(i)tch but if another man calls her one I'm going to knock every one of his teeth out.  You can call your kids spoiled ingrate brats but if a stranger called them that? Yeah same concept. 

BenIncaHutz
BenIncaHutz

@FelixScott My thoughts exactly. He is hired help. He is functioning as security and now as PR. Hopefully he gets a raise for the extra job duties.

AnotherOne
AnotherOne

@JuiceNJam @Getoverit227 

Only in your opinion is he ignorant. You're only saying that because he's white. Anti-racist is a codeword for Anti-white.

Getoverit227
Getoverit227

I don't care about the history or story line I was talking about in general any thing can be said about a white person but a white person say anything about a minority then there a bad person

MelFallon
MelFallon

@BenIncaHutz @HarryDangler I see 2 people that have NO idea what they are talking about.  Hollis owns his own limo business and does not have to work for Deen. He chooses to work for her. Why do blacks insist on living in the past?  From your post I see that YOU seem to have issues with whites only because they are white. So YOU are the racists. gasp

SharonReed
SharonReed

@BenIncaHutz @HarryDangler  I totally agree with your reply to HarryDangler and I AM white. Not that it makes a bit of difference except in this Paula Deen case where EVERY color seems to matter.

GailScottt
GailScottt

@BenIncaHutz @HarryDangler There was a time when the only options available to Black men were working for slave owners or dying--you either worked in the house or you worked in the field. Even then, there were choices.

There are other ways he could earn a living. He may not be able to be in the limelight, ride on fancy buses, and protect old ladies from whatever they're scared of, but he can earn a living doing something else.

I don't fault him—Paula gets that honor—but he gets no breaks from me. None at all.

MelFallon
MelFallon

@BenIncaHutz @dawwwn5112 You call your wife a bitch? WOW  she must be an idiot to take that and you are obviously low class.  No man has ever called me that, they wouldn't dare. Must be a black thang.

tdialsalon
tdialsalon

@BenIncaHutz @dawwwn5112 Finally someone said that.  Although I have nothing against her or what she said because quite frankly my moral compass did not revolve around what she says or said 30 years ago or today nor would she ever change my views  on that values I hold dear.   In the end there is not a group of black people tearing her down etc.  Its Corporations that she partnered with that is dropping her and making this a big deal.  So as a black woman PLEASE stop dragging black people rappers or whatever stereotypical label you want to group us in into this when we are not the ones breaking her empire down.  

AnotherOne
AnotherOne

@Getoverit227 

Racist is an Anti-white hate word. They only call us racist because were white. Anti-racist is a codeword for Anti-white.