Actress Suzanne Somers, who starred on the iconic sitcom Three’s Company and later launched a multimillion-dollar health and wellness business anchored by the successful “ThighMaster” workout device, passed away “peacefully at home” Sunday morning after a 23-year battle with breast cancer, according to her publicist. She was 76.
Somers, best known for her roles playing “one of the best dumb blondes that’s ever been done” as she put it in a 1980 interview with The New York Times, announced on Instagram in July that she had just finished battling another bout of cancer—with her husband Alan Hamel telling Page Six at the time that they were continuing to monitor Somers’ cancer despite getting the all-clear in June.
“She survived an aggressive form of breast cancer for over 23 years,” her publicist, R. Couri Hay, wrote in a statement shared with The Daily Beast. “Suzanne was surrounded by her loving husband Alan, her son Bruce, and her immediate family. Her family was gathered to celebrate her 77th birthday on October 16th. Instead, they will celebrate her extraordinary life, and want to thank her millions of fans and followers who loved her dearly.”
In an interview with People published just hours before her death was announced, Somers said she was looking forward to celebrating her birthday with the people “nearest and dearest” to her, including her “beloved husband Alan, our three children, Leslie, Stephen, and Bruce, [his wife] Caroline, plus our six wonderful grandchildren.”
Her publicist said that the family will undergo a private burial next month, with a memorial service to follow.
Somers began her Hollywood career after landing a few small roles during the late 1960s and early 1970s, but her big break came in 1977 when she was cast as a ditzy blonde named Chrissy Snow on Three’s Company.
The show became one of the most popular in America over the course of its first few seasons. Somers made waves by asking for the same pay as her male co-star when her contract was up for renegotiation in 1980. ABC balked at the request and she was subsequently cut from the show altogether.
“I’ve been playing what I think is one of the best dumb blondes that’s ever been done, but I never got any credit,” she told the Times following the debacle. “I did it so well that everyone thought I really was a dumb blonde.”
She remained a star, however, appearing in movies and television, including another starring role on another popular 1990s sitcom, Step by Step.
Despite a number of iconic roles, Somers is remembered as much for her business acumen as she is for her acting chops—especially her leggy infomercials for the ThighMaster, a well-known workout device that she began selling with her husband in the 1990s.
In an interview with Yahoo! Entertainment last year, Somers said she’d made nearly $300 million from the product, which continues to “sell and sell” even to this day.
“We stopped counting when we sold 10 million of them,” she quipped.
She’s also written more than two dozen books on health and wellness, and sold all manner of supplements, makeup and hair/skin products.
Of her success, she told Yahoo!: “I’ve written 27 books on health. I’ve done 16 or 18 years of series television, I’ve given lectures. And the thing I am best known for is the ThighMaster!”
“I think it was the tagline: ‘You just put it between your knees and squeeze.’ It was the right product, the right place, the right timing, the right spokesperson—the right everything. It was a perfect storm.”
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