Suzette Charles

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Suzette Charles
Suzette Charles aboard USS Coral Sea (CV-43) 1985.jpg
Suzette Charles performing in 1985
Born Suzette DeGaetano
(1963-03-02) March 2, 1963 (age 52)
Mays Landing, New Jersey, United States
Nationality American
Ethnicity Italian American and African American
Citizenship American
Education Presidential Scholar 1981
Occupation Singer and actress
Years active 1983-present
Known for First Runner Up of Miss America 1984
Miss America 1984
Home town Mays Landing, New Jersey
Title Miss New Jersey 1983
Miss America 1984
Predecessor Vanessa L. Williams
Successor Sharlene Wells
Board member of Endowment of the Arts
Spouse(s) Leonard Bley
Children 2
Parent(s) Charles DeGaetano (father)
Suzette Burroughs DeGaetano (mother)

Suzette Charles (born Suzette DeGaetano, March 2, 1963) is an American singer, entertainer, and actress. She is a former beauty queen who was Miss America 1984 and Miss New Jersey 1983.

Early life[edit]

Charles was born and raised in Mays Landing, New Jersey, she is the only child of an interracial family. Her white father, Charles DeGaetano, is of Italian descent,.[1] Her black mother, Suzette Burroughs DeGaetano is of French West Indian descent and is a retired schoolteacher.


Charles represented the state of New Jersey in the 1984 Miss America pageant held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She won her preliminary talent night and preliminary swimsuit and finished first runner-up to Vanessa Lynn Williams, who became Miss America. When Williams was forced to relinquish the title amid a scandal triggered by nude photographs of Williams published in Penthouse magazine, Charles was crowned in Williams' place and served the remaining seven weeks of Williams' reign, the shortest served by any Miss America.

Charles, who already had many credits in advertising and educational television, has gone on to a career as a singer, entertainer, and television personality. She has acted on the ABC soap opera Loving, CBS television series Frank's Place and performed on This Morning, a British talk show. She hosted a show on Bravo called Arts-Break. She narrated the motion picture, Beyond The Dream, and has appeared on stage singing with Stevie Wonder, Alan King, Joel Grey, Sammy Davis Jr., Bill Cosby and Frank Sinatra.

Charles also in 1993, was signed to RCA Records and recorded with top British producers Mike Stock and Pete Waterman, releasing her debut solo single, "Free To Love Again", in August of that year. The single peaked at #58 on the UK Singles Chart.[2] Other songs she recorded with Stock and Waterman included "After You're Gone", "Don't Stop (All The Love You Can Give)", "Every Time We Touch", "What The Eye Don't See" and "Just For A Minute". Her producers have included Waterman and David Foster who also signed her on his 143 Label. Barry Manilow and his Management company Stiletto Management represented her on Capitol Records in the late 80's as well.

Personal life[edit]

Charles has been a resident of Mays Landing, New Jersey.[3] She is married to Leonard Bley and is the mother of two children.[4]


  1. ^ "ITALIAN AMERICAN WOMEN TRAIL BLAZERS". The National Italian American Foundation. Retrieved 2007-05-27. 
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 101. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  3. ^ Chira, Susan. She has also lived in Brookville, Long Island
    "TO FIRST BLACK MISS AMERICA, VICTORY IS A MEANS TO AN END", The New York Times, September 19, 1983. Accessed December 4, 2007. "Her home is in Mays Landing, 15 miles west of Atlantic City, the site of the contest."
  4. ^
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Vanessa L. Williams
Miss America
Succeeded by
Sharlene Wells
Preceded by
Christina Shone
Miss New Jersey
Succeeded by
Patricia La Terra

External links[edit]