Delta Ramona Leah Burke (born July 30 1956, in Orlando, Florida) is an American television and film actress. She is probably best known for her role as Suzanne Sugarbaker in the CBS sitcom Designing Women.
Burke attended Colonial High School
in Orlando, Florida, where she was voted "Most Likely to Succeed." After graduation, she won the Miss Florida
title for 1974. Burke was paired with Miss Georgia
, Gail Nelson
, in the Miss America
pageant in 1974, and won a talent scholarship
allowing her to attend a two-year study program at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art
Delta's best-known role as Suzanne Sugarbaker in Designing Women
was created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason
. Before Designing Women
, she spent a year on Filthy Rich
in 1982 playing the wily young widow, Kathleen Beck. After that, she played female football team owner Diane Barrow on 1st & Ten
Designing Women fallout
Burke was slender when she started on "Designing Women" in 1986, but as the show gained in fame, so did her weight. She became the most popular cast member, earning two consecutive "Best Actress" nominations from the Emmys
in 1990 and 1991. In 1990, Burke publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the show's creators on a televised interview with Barbara Walters
and other media outlets. She also said that castmate Dixie Carter
, who had once been her close friend and maid of honor at her wedding to Gerald McRaney
, wasn't speaking to her as she sided with her bosses. At the end of the 5th season of Designing Women
, in 1991, she was let go from her contract due to her contentious relations with Carter and the Thomasons.
Burke became a blond for the short-lived TV sitcom Delta (1992), where she played an aspiring country singer. When the ratings plummeted, she became a brunette again. In 1995, she and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason reconciled their differences, and Burke returned as Suzanne Sugarbaker in Women of the House (1995), but that show also met an early demise.
It took more than a decade for Burke and Carter to reconcile, but they did so when Burke guest-starred in an episode of Family Law, on which Carter was a regular cast member.
Ever since the early 1990s, Burke's weight has been a subject of discussion in the tabloid press. In reality, her struggles with weight, depression
, and eating disorders
stretch back to her pageant days in the early 1970s. She became a much-parodied figure in the press due to her seesawing weight, including a skit on Saturday Night Live
, wherein Leon Phelps from The Ladies Man
has a sexual fixation on her. In 1989, Burke asked Thomason to write an episode addressing her weight. The episode, "They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They?", had Suzanne Sugarbaker going to her 15-year high school reunion and getting her feelings hurt after hearing disparaging remarks about her weight. This episode is said to have earned Burke her first Emmy
nomination as Best Actress. She earned a second nomination the following year.
Recent weight loss
Burke recently lost about 60 pounds, due to her nearly 10-year battle with type-2 diabetes
. She plans to keep on losing weight to remain healthy, as well as so she could play the role of "Truvy" in the Broadway
production of Steel Magnolias
; a role that required her to be more slender.
Delta has most recently been a film for the Hallmark channel, titled "Bridal Fever", which aired February 2
Burke has been a leading actress in a number of television films and had a supporting role in the Mel Gibson film What Women Want (2000).
In the early 2000s, she co-starred with David Alan Grier on the sitcom DAG; she had lost much of her excess weight for the role after being diagnosed with diabetes. She had a recurring role on Popular as Cherry Cherry. In 2005 she appeared on Broadway in the play Steel Magnolias...
She recently starred as Mrs. Meers in the Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. She was succeeded in that role by her Designing Women co-star Dixie Carter.
She currently has a recurring role on Boston Legal as a former flame of William Shatner's character, Denny Crane.
Burke has been married to actor Gerald McRaney
since May 28
. They have no children together, although McRaney has adult children from his prior marriages. Burke and McRaney's primary residence is in Los Angeles, California
; they also own a house in Telluride, Colorado
and one in New Orleans, Louisiana
Burke is a very successful designer and manager of the clothing company Delta Burke Design, headquartered in New York City.
She and her husband are also the owners of an antique store in Collins, Mississippi.
Delta Burke has compulsive hoarding syndrome
. "At one time I had 27 storage units. I don't have a big enough house!" she said. "My mom had it, it's my mother's fault. She saved the diaper I came home from the hospital in!
Burke's name appears in a song title on The Promise Drive (self-titled full-length CD). The song title is "Pat Sajak and the Legend of Delta Burke".
The performing arts center at Colonial High School, was nearly renamed "The Delta Burke Theatre of Performing Arts", the idea was quickly shot down by the then president of Colonial's Thespian Society troupe 592.
On February 6, 2008 KTTV
in Los Angeles
reported that Delta Burke voluntarily checked herself into a hospital with depression due to obsessive-compulsive disorder
, which causes her to act as a compulsive hoarder
- Delta Style: Eve Wasn't a Size 6 and Neither am I (1998, St. Martin's Press ;ISBN 0-312-15454-2 )