This past week, we lost an American icon – Suzanne Somers.
As Ambassador to the Holy See in 2019, I had the honor of traveling with a U.S. delegation, including Suzanne and her husband, Alan Hamel, on a trip to Krakow, Poland, to participate in the March of the Living. We walked alongside 10,000 participants from Auschwitz to Birkenau to remember the 6 million Jews who died during the Holocaust and to honor the heroes and survivors of the Second World War. Throughout the trip, I was struck by Suzanne’s grace, authenticity, humor, and kindness.
I remember watching Suzanne on “Three’s Company” in the late 70s and early 80s. Her portrayal of Chrissy Snow was captivating, engaging, and entertaining.
Suzanne’s brilliance as an actress resonated with diverse audiences, ensuring the show’s enduring popularity even after it went off the air.
“Creating her [Chrissy] was actually intellectual,” she said in a CBS News interview in 2020. “How do I make her likable and loveable … dumb blondes are annoying. I gave her a moral code. I imagined it was the childhood I would’ve liked to have had.”
Suzanne’s career as an actress began in the late 1960s. She was cast in the 1973 Oscar-nominated George Lucas film “American Graffiti” as “Blonde in T-Bird,” a role that she said, “changed her life forever.” Suzanne also worked on television shows such as “The Rockford Files,” “Magnum Force” and “Starsky and Hutch” before her first appearance as Chrissy Snow in “Three’s Company” in 1977.
As the star of a hit show and a woman who knew her value, Suzanne eventually asked for a raise and a comparable salary to her co-star John Ritter. “The show’s response was, ‘Who do you think you are?’” Somers said in an interview with People in 2020. “They said, ‘John Ritter is the star.’”
Although she was phased out and fired after asking for a raise, Suzanne took the same creative determination she brought to the sitcom and applied it to her new ventures as a headliner in Las Vegas, a talk show host, and an entrepreneur in the wellness and beauty industries.
Suzanne built what The New York Times referred to as a “four-decade empire” spanning from exercise videos and how-to books, to fashion, makeup, and hair care products. She was perhaps best known for her role as the spokesperson for ThighMaster exercise equipment in the 1990s.
In 2000, Suzanne was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, the resiliency she learned throughout her life equipped her to face this challenge.
Suzanne continued writing books – she published more than 25 in her lifetime – and created organic cosmetics, dietary supplements, and “gut-renewing superfoods.”
When Suzanne’s breast cancer came back in July 2023, she said, “I have been living with cancer since my 20s. And every time (it) pops up, I continue to bat it back.” As she told Entertainment Tonight at the time, “I do my best not to let this insidious disease control me.”
Up until the end of her life on October 15, 2023, Suzanne bravely fought her battle against cancer, with her friends, family, and beloved husband, Alan Hamel, of 46 years, by her side.
The day before Suzanne died, Alan wrote her a poem (published in all caps), which he read to her before she passed peacefully in her sleep.
“WHAT BRAND OF LOVE DO I FEEL FOR MY WIFE SUZANNE? … THERE ARE NO WORDS. THERE ARE NO ACTIONS. NO PROMISES. NO DECLARATIONS. … SO I WILL CALL IT, ‘US’, UNIQUELY, MAGICALLY, INDESCRIBABLY WONDERFUL ‘US.’’’
Suzanne Somers was an American icon, a trailblazer, and a visionary. Let us honor her memory and celebrate her remarkable life.