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 West Indian
Citizenship American
Education Temple University
Occupation Singer and actress
Years active 1983-present
Home town Mays Landing, New Jersey
Title Miss New Jersey 1983
Miss America 1984 B (after Vanessa Williams resigned)
First runner-up in the Miss America 1984 pageant
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), Miss New Jersey 1983, is an American singer, entertainer, and actress. She served as both first runner-up in the Miss America 1984 pageant and as Miss America 1984 B for the final weeks of Vanessa L. Williams reign (after Williams resigned in July 1984).

Early life[edit]

Charles was born and raised in Mays Landing, New Jersey, she is the only child of an interracial family. Her father, Charles DeGaetano, is of Italian descent,[1] while her mother, Suzette DeGaetano (a former a professional singer and music teacher) is of West Indian descent.[2][3] She graduated from the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts in 1981 (where she was a Presidential Scholar in her senior year). She won a full scholarship to Temple University where she was a performing arts major.[3]

Miss America 1984[edit]

Charles competed as Miss New Jersey in the Miss America 1984 pageant held in Atlantic City, New Jersey on September 17, 1983. She finished the pageant as the first runner-up.[4]

In July 1984 the reigning Miss America, Vanessa L. Williams, was forced to resign seven weeks prior to the end of her time as Miss America (after the unauthorized publication of nude photos in Penthouse). Charles thus replaced her, serving as Miss America for the final weeks of Williams' reign.[5] Williams was allowed to keep the bejeweled crown and scholarship money and is officially recognized by the Miss America Organization as "Miss America 1984";[6] Charles is recognized as "Miss America 1984 B".[7][3] Thirty-two years later, Williams returned to the Miss America stage on September 13, 2015, when she served as head judge for Miss America 2016.[8][9] The pageant began with Miss America CEO Sam Haskell issuing an apology to Williams for her forced resignation as Miss America in 1984. He told Williams that although "none of us currently in the organization were involved then, on behalf of today's organization, I want to apologize to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams. I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be."[10][11][12] Charles commented on the apology the day after the event, stating in an interview with Inside Edition that she was perplexed over it and suggested that it was given for the purpose of ratings.[13]


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. In 1993, Charles was signed to RCA Records and recorded with top British producers Mike Stock and Pete Waterman, releasing her debut single, "Free To Love Again", in August of that year. The single peaked at #58 on the UK Singles Chart.[14] 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.[15] She is married to Leonard Bley and is the mother of two children.[16]


  1. ^ "ITALIAN AMERICAN WOMEN TRAIL BLAZERS". The National Italian American Foundation. Retrieved 2007-05-27. 
  2. ^ "Suzette Charles was Groomed Since Childhood to Be Miss America." Gettysburg Times, July 24, 1984:3.
  3. ^ a b c "The Short Reigh Of Suzette Charles Suzette Charles Was Miss America For Only A Few Months But She`s Taking That Brief Reign And Turning It Into A Successful Career"
  4. ^ "Former Miss New Jerseys". "Miss New Jersey". Retrieved 2015-09-14. 
  5. ^ "American Experience | Miss America | People & Events". Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Miss America 1984". Miss America Organization. Retrieved May 3, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Miss America 1984 B". Miss America Organization. Retrieved May 3, 2012. 
  8. ^ Leeds, Serene (2015-09-14). "Vanessa Williams Receives On-Air Apology From the Miss America Organization". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015-09-14. 
  9. ^ ABC News. "Vanessa Williams on Returning to Miss America After Scandal". ABC News. Retrieved September 11, 2015. 
  10. ^ Fitz-Gerald, Sean (2015-09-14). "Vanessa Williams Finally Got Her Miss America Apology". New York Magazine. Retrieved 2015-09-17. 
  11. ^ Rogers, Katie (2015-09-14). "Vanessa Williams Returns to Miss America and Receives an Apology". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-09-14. 
  12. ^ Robinson, Joanna (2015-09-14). "Watch Vanessa Williams Finally Receive an Apology at the Miss America 2016 Pageant". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2015-09-13. 
  13. ^ Inside Edition (2015-09-14). "Beauty Queen Who Won Vanessa Williams' Crown: Miss America Apology Was About Ratings". Inside Edition. Retrieved 2015-09-18. 
  14. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 101. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  15. ^ 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."
  16. ^
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]