Suzanne Somers is one of those Hollywood names that most people can recognize, though might not be able to say from where. Originally made famous through the ABC sitcom Three’s Company, Somers has kept her name relevant through the 80s and 90s by becoming the self-made queen of infomercials. In the 2000s, she took that further, focusing on promoting concepts and products related to personal health.
With concepts like anti-GMO and organic food now mainstream, did Somers miss her opportunity to become the movement’s spokesperson?
Suzanne Somers the Actress
Somers had various roles before her break-out with Three’s Company, perhaps most famously as a cameo in American Graffiti, the 1973 coming-of-age dramedy. After two earlier hires failed to impress producers, Somers was hired before the third pilot was filmed. Portraying the stereotype of a dumb blonde working as a secretary, Somers co-starred along John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt.
She was instantly loved by the media, which caused most of the publicity around the show to revolve around her. This, along with pressure from her husband, motivated Somers to seek a higher salary. Her argument was that she was simply asking to be paid as much as male TV actors were being paid.
However, ABC denied the request, leading her to boycott filming a few episodes and having her role in the fifth season reduced dramatically. Even before the end of the season, CBS had signed a contract with her, knowing she was to be removed from Three’s Company, for a show that ultimately went unproduced.
After ABC terminated her contract, Suzanne Somers sued ABC, claiming her reputation in had been damaged. While she was awarded back-pay for a single episode, the general premise of the suit was denied.
Suzanne Somers the Saleswoman
After leaving ABC, Somers moved to Las Vegas to work as an entertainer there. During the 80s, she also began appearing in perhaps her most famous line of infomercials, promoting the Thighmaster, a simple exercising device. Between Vegas and infomercials, Somers managed to keep her name relevant, aided by occasional USO appearances.
This relevance secured her the main role in the short-lived sitcom She’s the Sheriff, which ran from 1987 until 1989. From there, she appeared in multiple network TV productions, mostly to fill small roles or to perform in made-for-TV films. In 1991, she was cast as a regular in ABC’s Step by Step, the premiere of which lined up with a biopic of Somers starring herself, also broadcast on ABC.
Her return to ABC marked a return to celebrity, even spawning a short-lived daytime talk show. Step by Step, despite being entirely unremarkable, maintained viewership for six season, until a move to CBS killed it.
The move to CBS proved useful for Somers’ career, as she was hired to co-host CBS’s renewed Candid Camera with Peter Funt. She was on the show from 1997 until 1999, when the series moved to PAX TV without her.
What is Suzanne Somers Doing Now
After leaving Candid Camera, Somers began publishing books about diet and nutrition, publishing five books between 1999 and 2001. Also during that time period, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had a lumpectomy and follow-up radiation treatments. However, she declined to undergo chemotherapy, opting instead to take supplements of fermented mistletoe.
This started her down her second revitalization of her career, this time as a proponent of alternative medicine. After her cancer went into remission in 2001, Somers started to explore prophylactic alternative medicines, most famously bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
In 2008, she was misdiagnosed with cancer, which led to her writing more books about her discussions with doctors. Between 2001 and 2015, Somers would write 15 books about her beliefs about alternative medicines, frequently appearing on shows like Oprah to promote them.
Legitimate medical authorities have continued to caution against Somers’ rhetoric, many thinking she may be doing more harm than good when she advocates that people reject actual medicine. Somers has been criticized, most notably, by the American Cancer Society, as well as Newsweek and Salon.com.
Suzanne Somers is approaching 70 now, and has only shown an increased commitment to her beliefs about nutrition. Recently, she’s expanded her criticisms beyond cancer treatment to dealing with fluoride in drinking water and genetic modification of food crops. When she isn’t preaching the benefits of unproven beliefs, Somers continues to perform at various Las Vegas casinos.