In 1980, Suzanne Somers’ contract was not renewed for Three’s Company after she asked for a pay raise from $30,000 an episode to $150,000, which was on par with her co-star, John Ritter.
She’d been on ABC’s Emmy-winning sit-com for four seasons, and her contract to play the bubbly, air-headed blonde, Chrissy Snow, was up.
“At that time, the men were making 10 to 15 times more than I was,” the 75-year-old told Fox News Digital. “And I was on the No. 1 show. It just seemed wrong because I was clearly being underpaid. And it’s not like I stopped the show. My contract was up. We had a meeting with the lawyers [at ABC]. But, by then, they had already decided.”
“I was waiting at home,” Somers recalled. “And remember, this was a time before cell phones, so it felt like an eternity. It was a gray day. And the front door opened in a way that you knew bad news was coming. It was really slow. And I heard my husband going up the stairs really slowly. I met him at the landing. He looked at me, shook his head, and said, ‘You’re out. You were gone within the first five minutes when I walked into the meeting.’ Now, I was out of work and labeled ‘trouble’ only because I wanted to be paid fairly for doing my job.”
Up to that time, Somers had been hailed as America’s sweetheart. She’d appeared on 55 national magazine covers and was a favorite of Johnny Carson. But the press turned against her after she said the network made an example out of her for wanting a pay raise, and she went into a deep depression at home.
“I just remember sitting in my living room — same gray, cold day, months later — just thinking, ‘Why?’” she recalled. “And I heard a voice. I think we all hear voices. We just don’t often tune in. But that voice said, ‘Why are you focused on what you don’t have? Why don’t you focus on what you do have? You have enormous visibility. Most of the people on the planet know your name at this point.’”
Somers’ husband and manager was able to secure her a Vegas residency for more money than she had ever asked for. Not only did her shows sell out for 15 years, but, by 1987, she was crowned Female Entertainer of the Year.
Then in 1990, she launched the “ThighMaster.” She stopped counting how many ThighMasters she sold “after 10 million.” In 1992, she became one of the Home Shopping Network’s top-selling brands. Today, she is the author of 27 books, including 14 New York Times bestsellers
“Would I have wanted to do it this way? No,” she said. “But I allowed it to take me and us where it wanted to go. My biggest complaint today is that I work too much. I’m always keeping busy. The pandemic worked for me because we started doing Facebook Live shows and Instagram shows three times a week. We start the show with some tequila on ice, and it’s like having a drink together while my husband is running the camera. There’s just so much freedom on the internet than there is on mainstream television. I’m just loving where I’ve been and where I’m heading.”.