Before there was Gwyneth Paltrow or Jenny McCarthy or Dr. Oz, there was Suzanne Somers.
Somers, who died from complications of breast cancer Oct. 15 at age 76, pioneered the role of celebrity wellness guru, using her sitcom television fame as a springboard to a second career as a self-professed health and beauty expert.
Although younger generations might have never heard of Somers, they still feel her influence, said Timothy Caulfield, a professor at the University of Alberta’s School of Public Health and author of “Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?”
Somers “created the template that we see over and over again,” Caulfield said.
Somers, a star of the 1970s-’80s show “Three’s Company,” sold millions of ThighMasters to people hoping to achieve the Barbie-like figure for which Somers was famous. Her fans also connected with Somers on a personal level and appreciated the bravery it took to discuss growing up with an alcoholic father or being diagnosed with cancer.
But Somers drew criticism for urging women to defy the medical establishment. She revealed she had skipped chemotherapy against the advice of her doctor. She also championed potentially risky “bioidentical hormones,” which she touted as a more natural alternative to pharmaceutical treatments for menopause. Somers went on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to describe an elaborate daily routine, which involved injecting hormones into her vagina and taking 60 pills a day in an effort to remain young-looking and sexy.