Suzette Charles

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Suzette Charles
Suzette Charles aboard USS Coral Sea (CV-43) 1985.jpg
Suzette Charles performing in 1985
Suzette DeGaetano

(1963-03-02) March 2, 1963 (age 57)
EducationTemple University
OccupationSinger, actress
Years active1983-present
TitleMiss New Jersey 1983
Miss America 1984
TermJuly 23, 1984 – September 15, 1984 (succeeded)
PredecessorVanessa Williams
SuccessorSharlene Wells
Board member ofEndowment of the arts

Suzette Charles (born Suzette DeGaetano, March 2, 1963) is an American singer, entertainer, and actress. She was Miss New Jersey in 1983, and served as Miss America 1984 for seven weeks after Vanessa Williams was forced to resign from the position that July.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Charles was born and raised in Mays Landing, New Jersey. The only child of an interracial family, her father, Charles DeGaetano, is of Italian descent,[3] while her mother (also named Suzette and a former a professional singer and music teacher) is of West Indian heritage.[4][1]

A Presidential Scholar her senior year, she graduated from the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts in 1981, and won a full scholarship to Temple University, becoming a performing arts major.[1]

Miss America 1984[edit]

Charles, as Miss New Jersey, competed in the Miss America 1984 pageant held in Atlantic City on September 17, 1983. Earlier in the week, she had won a Preliminary Talent Award for her performance of "Kiss Me in the Rain".[5][6] She originally finished as first runner-up.[6][7] After the reigning Miss America Vanessa Williams was forced to resign that July, Charles replaced her as the new Miss America for the remaining seven weeks.[1][2]

At the Miss America 2016 pageant, current CEO, Sam Haskell, issued an apology to Williams for "the events of 1984."[8] Charles later commented on the television program Inside Edition that she was perplexed by the apology, suggesting that it was given for the purpose of ratings.[9]


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.[citation needed]

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 number 58 on the UK Singles Chart.[10] 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. In the late 1980s, Barry Manilow and his management company Stiletto Management represented her on Capitol Records as well.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Charles has been a resident of Mays Landing, New Jersey.[11] She has also lived in Brookville, Long Island.[12] She is married to ophthalmologist and plastic surgeon, Dr. Leonard Bley and is the mother of two children.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Short Reign 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"
  2. ^ a b "American Experience | Miss America | People & Events". PBS. Retrieved September 22, 2013.
  3. ^ "ITALIAN AMERICAN WOMEN TRAIL BLAZERS". The National Italian American Foundation. Archived from the original on 2013-05-20. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  4. ^ "Suzette Charles was Groomed Since Childhood to Be Miss America." Gettysburg Times, July 24, 1984:3.
  5. ^ Toscano, Louis (September 16, 1983). "Miss New Jersey, Suzette Charles, won the second of..." United Press International. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  6. ^ a b c Watson, Elwood. "Charles, Suzette (1963- )". Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  7. ^ "Former Miss New Jerseys". "Miss New Jersey". Retrieved 2015-09-14.
  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. ^ Inside Edition (2015-09-14). "Beauty Queen Who Won Vanessa Williams' Crown: Miss America Apology Was About Ratings". Inside Edition. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  10. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 101. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  11. ^ Chira, Susan.
  12. ^ "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."
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]