How Baking Helped This Woman Escape Homelessness and Get Sober — And Help Others Do the Same
April 12, 2023
Jennifer Hudson is shining a light on a baker who overcame her own struggles to find success and help others who need support starting over.
Janie Deegan had been homeless for a year and battling an addiction for 10 years when she finally got sober at 25. “Everybody in my life was like, ‘We love you, but it hurts to be around you, Janie,’” she told Jennifer on the April 12 episode of "The Jennifer Hudson Show."
“I was just a shell of a person — I had never built any self-love or confidence or self-esteem,” she said. “I couldn’t even look people in the eyes.”
Janie next discovered the joy of baking, which was a therapeutic experience for her. “Baking is such an artistic outlet — it’s so beautiful, it’s so meditative,” she told Jennifer.
“Unlike cooking, you have to follow the steps to get the right result. For me, it was the perfect balance of an artistic outlet and learning how to put one foot in front of the other to get the results, which is something I never really learned in life.”
Janie began selling her baked goods in 2015. “I started to be able to look people in the eye again,” she said. “My first concept of self-esteem was built by baking.”
Janie wanted to open her own bakery but didn’t know where to start, and she thought that her past would hold her back.
“I thought if you knew who I really was, if you knew the real Janie, then you wouldn’t love me and you definitely wouldn’t want to buy baked goods from me,” she said. “Just starting to tell my story and have people try my baked goods and purchase them enabled me to look at myself in a different way.”
Janie’s Life-Changing Baked Goods now has two locations (soon to be three!) in the New York City area. The bakery is known for its Pie Crust Cookies, which are made with pie filling in the middle of a flaky pie crust exterior with caramelized streusel on top.
Janie also makes sure to give opportunities to those who may be struggling to find work — just like she once was. “We have an open-door hiring policy, which means that no matter what your prior circumstances are, the person who shows up today to interview is the person we’re going to look at, so we don’t do background checks,” she told JHud.
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Jennifer had a surprise for Janie: a video featuring some of Janie’s employees thanking Janie for giving them a chance by hiring them to work at her bakery despite their troubled backgrounds.
Janie was moved by the video. “I’m just so grateful to them,” she said. “They make my life such a joy.”
Learn more about Janie’s Life-Changing Baked Goods by visiting janiebakes.com.
“The Jennifer Hudson Show” airs weekdays. Here’s when to watch in your area.