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Delta Burke


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Delta Ramona Leah Burke (born July 30, 1956) is an American television and film actress. Her television work includes a leading role as Suzanne Sugarbaker in the CBS sitcom Designing Women.

Early life and Miss Florida

Burke was born in Orlando, Florida to a single mother, Jean. Frederick Burke, an Orlando realtor, adopted her after marrying her mother; she has never met her biological father. She graduated from Colonial High School in 1974, and won the senior superlative "Most Likely to Succeed." In her senior year of high school, she won the Miss Florida title for 1974; she was the youngest Miss Florida titleholder in pageant history. She was subsequently paired with Miss Georgia, Gail Nelson, in the 1975 Miss America pageant. Burke won a talent scholarship from the Miss America Organization, allowing her to attend a two-year study program at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Early career

In 1974, as part of winning Miss Florida, Delta appeared on the ABC TV show Bozo the Clown, filmed in Orlando Florida. She worked as the magical assistant to Herbert L. Becker. The two worked together for 6 months.

In 1980, Burke portrayed the role of the second Bonnie Sue Chisholm in the CBS western miniseries, The Chisholms. Her best-known role as Suzanne Sugarbaker in Designing Women was created by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. Before Designing Women, Burke 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, she gained 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.

Weight gain

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 says she plans to keep on losing weight to remain healthy, as well as to improve her prospects for playing "Truvy" in the Broadway production of Steel Magnolias, a role that required her to be more slender.

Recent career

Delta has most recently appeared in a film for Hallmark Channel, titled Bridal Fever, which aired February 2, 2008.

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.

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 also played Bella Horowitz during a 5 episode arc on Boston Legal as a former flame of William Shatner's character, Denny Crane in season three.

Personal life

Burke has been married to actor Gerald McRaney since May 28, 1989. 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.


Burke has compulsive hoarding syndrome, for which she received therapy. "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!"









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