Classic TV star, entrepreneur, model, and author Suzanne Somers passed away on Oct. 15, just one day before her 77th birthday. To celebrate her life well lived, we’re exploring her turbulent beginnings that led to massive stardom.
Somers was born Suzanne Marie Mahoney in 1946, one of four children to mother, Marion, a legal secretary, and father, Francis, a laborer. Troubles at home with her horrifically abusive father led to a broken childhood for Somers, and her situation seemingly got worse when she fell pregnant with her only child, Bruce Somers Jr., at 18. But in an effort to support her son, she created a life rich in personal and professional successes.
The future Three’s Company star married her child’s father, Bruce, just days after learning she was pregnant. She gave birth shortly after turning 19. The marriage, however, failed three three years later. Somers went through a series of heartbreaking misfortunes after her divorce. She was arrested after bouncing checks and then found herself unable to afford medical bills when her son was hit by a car and only given a 50% chance of survival.
When Somers hit rock bottom, she sought help from a therapist, and during that time, she decided to go into modeling, which was where her luck turned around. Somers managed to land a spot as a prize model on The Anniversary Game, hosted by her would-be husband, Alan Hamel, in 1969. That opened the door for her breakout role as the “Blonde in the White Thunderbird” in American Graffiti. Eventually, she earned a lead in Three’s Company and became a household name.
Suzanne Somers Fought For Equal Pay and Lost
Suzanne Somers only stayed with the series for five out of its eight seasons. She famously approached her bosses and asked for a raise when her contract was up for renewal. Being one of the main stars, she wanted to be paid on par with her male counterpart, John Ritter. The producers fired her for asking.
“So, we went in to renegotiate for year six because we had to, my contract was up,” she told ET in 2020. “And they fired me. They fired me for asking to be paid commensurate with the men. … They need you as the example so no other woman in television will get uppity and think that they could ask for parity with men.”
The job loss came as a blow, but ultimately, Suzanne Somers stood by her decision. And by that time, she had built her name enough to stay in the industry. Somers starred in 45 movies and series, including the hit TGIF show Step by Step. She also earned an Emmy nod for hosting The Suzanne Show. And no one can forget that she was the beautiful face of Thighmaster in the ’90s.
Off camera, Somers wrote 27 books, and 14 of those became New York Times bestsellers. One title, Sexy Forever, Knockout, and Ageless, was a #1 bestseller, according to her publisher, Simon & Schuster. She also founded the skincare line Suzanne Organics. Her skincare line and many of her books surrounded natural health and beauty, which became a passion of hers when she began her battle with cancer over two decades ago.
Somers Enoyed 46 Years of Marriage
Suzanne Somers’ was extremely successful in all that she did. At the time of her death, she was worth about $100 million. However, Somers’ successes were not strictly financial, she also enjoyed a long and beautiful marriage with Hamel, and she was extremely close to her blended family.
Somers and Hamel dated for a decade before marrying in 1977. Somers once told PEOPLE that she and her husband were so connected that she thought they knew each other in another life. She also admitted that after their wedding, she and Hamel never spent a night without each other.
When Hamel became a stepfather to Bruce Jr., she became a stepmother to his children, Leslie and Stephen. The two later went on to become grandparents.
Suzanne Somers announced in July that her cancer had returned. Her publicist, R. Couri Hay, shared that she lost her battle with the disease on Oct. 15. Hay said she died “peacefully” in her sleep after reading a love letter written by Hamel. Her family was by her side.
“Her family was gathered to celebrate her 77th birthday on October 16th,” Hay told PEOPLE. “Instead, they will celebrate her extraordinary life, and want to thank her millions of fans and followers who loved her dearly.”
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