Suzanne Somers is an American actress born on October 16, 1946 in San Bruno, California. She gained fame and pin-up status for her role as a bubbly blond in the TV hit series Three’s Company (1977). She took on several other acting roles in the 1980s. Around the same time, Somers expanded her career by promoting and popularizing the ThighMaster exercise equipment. Somers revealed in 2001 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and then caused controversy when she chose alternative treatments. Somers continues to author books and sell clothing, jewelry and fitness equipment.
Model, actress, businesswoman and writer Suzanne Marie Mahoney was born on October 16, 1946, in San Bruno, California. The daughter of an abusive alcoholic father, Somers briefly attended Lone Mountain College in San Francisco before dropping out after becoming pregnant. After marrying and divorcing her child’s father, she sought out modeling and acting work in San Francisco.
For years, Somers supported herself and her son with odd jobs and small acting parts. She met her future husband Alan Hamel while working on the game show The Anniversary Game in the late 1960s. One of her most famous early roles, however, was the mysterious girl in the thunderbird that Richard Dreyfuss chases after in the George Lucas 60s nostalgia film American Graffiti. Around this time, she also wrote a volume of poetry with the tantalizing title Touch Me, which attracted the attention of Johnny Carson. Somers became a frequent guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Her biggest career breakthrough came in 1977 as one of the stars of the hit sitcom Three’s Company with John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt. On the show, she played the bubbly, goofy Chrissy Snow, who became viewed as one of television’s quintessial “dumb blondes.” Around this time, she married Alan Hamel, who also became her manager. Following a salary dispute, Somers was eventually written off in 1981.
After being dumped from her hit show, Somers reinvented herself as an entertainer. She often played Las Vegas with such performers as Rich Little and Bobby Vinton. In 1987, Somers returned to television with the syndicated sitcom She’s the Sheriff, in which she played a woman who takes over her late husband’s policing duties in Lakes County, Nevada. Before the show went off the air in 1989, Somers published her memoir Keeping Secrets (1988), revealing her troubled childhood growing up with a verbally abusive alcoholic father and the lasting impact of his addiction on herself and her family.
While she had been a spokesperson for different companies over the years, Somers developed her businesses as well. In the late 1980s, she started marketing a small piece of exercise equipment called the ThighMaster. This was the first time in her career as a health and fitness promoter.
In 1991, Somers again found success on the small screen, co-starring with Patrick Duffy in the family sitcom Step by Step. The pair played newlyweds who create a new family, bringing together the children from their previous relationships. While many critics did not like the show, it became a staple on ABC’s popular Friday night comedy lineup for many years.
Somers published her first diet book, Suzanne Somers’ Eat Great, Lose Weight, in 1997. After her series went off the air the following year, she continued to build up her business, writing another autobiography, After the Fall: How I Picked Myself Up, Dusted Myself Off, and Started All Over Again (1998) and several more diet books.
Battle with Breast Cancer
In March 2001, Somers revealed that she had been battling breast cancer during an appearance on Larry King Live. She made the announcement in response to some tabloid rumors that she got liposuction to look good. The surgery, Somers explained, had been to fix some swelling related to her medical treatments. “Saying the words publicly out loud—‘I have breast cancer’—rocked my soul,” she later said, according to People magazine. The news broke at the same time as Somers was promoting her latest health and fitness title, Eat, Cheat, and Melt the Fat Away.
Somers had been diagnosed with breast in April 2000, and doctors performed a lumpectomy. After surgery, Somers had radiation treatment, but she decided against having chemotherapy. She chose to take an alternative treatment called Iscador. Her course of treatment soon became a subject of public debate with some doctors and others criticizing Somers for her actions. She was also chastised for continuing to take hormones after her treatments against her doctors’ advice.
In July 2003, Somers tried her hand at the Broadway stage, starring in the autobiographical one-woman show, The Blonde in the Thunderbird. The show received mostly negative reviews and closed after only a few weeks.
Controversial Hormone Use
Again caught up in controversy, Somers emerged as an advocate for bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She believes that these natural, plant-based hormones have anti-aging properties and has promoted them in her two books, The Sexy Years (2004) and Ageless (2006). In 2007, Somers did knowledge some of the safety issues in an interview with Discover. “What bioidenticals have to offer me, I know is dangerous. . . . I don’t want fall into a life of sleeplessness and sexlessness and illness and depression and all the diseases that are by-products of the loss of hormones. I’m willing to take a risk.”
That same year, Somers faced a personal hardship. She and her husband lost their Malibu, California home during a wildfire in January. Fortunately, the couple was not home at the time. Somers issued a statement at the time, in which she said “My nature is to look at the glass half-full. . . We will rebuild, and I truly believe we will learn something great from this experience.”
Upon learning that actress Christina Applegate had breast cancer in 2008, Somers wrote her a letter offering her support. According to People magazine, she told Applegate that “The success and drive you have had in your career will be the same strengths you will use to win over this nasty disease. And I am here if you want to talk to someone who was ‘there.’”
Her latest book, Breakthrough: Eight Steps to Wellness, was published in 2008. In addition to her books, Somers sells a variety of health and fitness products through her website and a line of clothing and jewelry through the Home Shopping Network.
In Recent Years
Somers has continued to be active in the personal wellness field, publishing such books as 2010's Knock Out: Interviews with Doctors Who Are Curing Cancer—And How to Prevent Getting It In The First Place. Her most recent title is Tox-Sick: From Toxic to Not Sick (2015).
Also in 2015, Somers made a return to television as a contestant on Dancing With the Stars. She is competing against likes of singer Patti LaBelle, actress Willow Shields and Bachelor star Chris Soules.
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