LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An African-American woman who lives in the Southland is rushing to Paula Deen’s defense even as the celebrity chef lost more business partners Thursday.

Sheila Cutchlow says she owes “everything” to Paula Deen. They collaborated on a cookbook and Cutchlow spent two years touring with the embattled Deen.

Cutchlow told CBS2’s Juan Fernandez that people don’t know the real Paula and they have rushed to judgement to brand her a racist. She says Paula Deen is as sweet as her sugar-filled desserts.

“She changed my life,” says Cutchlow, “She literally and absolutely changed my life. I want her to continue to do that.”

Deen has lost sponsors left and right after she said she used the N word, nearly three decades ago, after a man put a gun to her head when she was a bank teller.

Cutchlow says Paula Deen is getting an unfair shake. “She was by far, and I mean unfailingly, the most gracious, generous, kind, loving and feisty person I’ve ever worked with. ”

The two met two years ago when Cutchlow won a cooking contest hosted by Deen.

For the past two years, the two have traveled extensively together. Not once did Deen ever come across as a racist, said Cutchlow. “I have seen her work with black, white, straight, gay. I’ve seen her work with audience members — just off the cuff. No, this woman is not a racist.”

Cutchlow now works as a chef at a Southern-style restaurant, Willie Jane’s in Venice.

She told Fernandez that watching Deen’s tearful apologies has been hard. “I love this woman. It hurt to see her breakdown like that. To see that was painful.”

Cutchlow said Deen was a builder, not an oppressor and she has sent her best wishes to Paula and her family. “Paula, you’re my [role] model and I still want to be just like you.”

Fernandez also reported that Deen’s book sales are booming. Her latest cookbook went from 1500 to number one on Amazon.com.

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