Suzanne Depasse was born in Harlem, NY on July 19, 1947. Her parents were upper middle class, and as a result, Suzanne attended the best schools, all private, as well as integrated. After graduating from Manhattan High School in 1964, Suzanne went on to Syracuse University and studied writing. Not too long after going to Syracuse, Suzanne was unhappy with the small black population, and moved back home and attended a smaller community college. However, Suzanne was unsatisfied with the community college as well, and she gave up school in favor for the New York nightclubs.
After a brief stint at the Cheetah Disco in New York, Suzanne went on to work as a talent agent from the Howard Stein Agency. While working for Stein, Suzanne had tried numerous times to book talent for Motown, but it was always to no avail. After discussing her frustration to Berry Gordy, Motown’s founder, he hired her on the spot as his personal assistant. Gordy taught Suzanne the ropes of the entertainment industry, and she found new talent, as well as traveled on the road with many of the performers. She soon became the vice president of creative operations for the Los Angeles division of Motown.
During her stint as VP, Suzanne found and/or signed many extremely talented people for Motown. Some of the acts she signed were Rick James, Teena Marie, Lionel Richie, Stephanie Mills, The Commodores, and lastly, The Jackson Five. In the early stages of The Jackson Five’s career, Suzanne closely supervised them; advising them on t heir music and choreography. In no time, The Jackson Five became international superstars, partly thanks to Suzanne’s tutelage.
Later in her career, Suzanne utilized her writing skills. She helped co-write the screenplay for Lady Sings the Blues, the Billie Holiday biopic starring Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams. Suzanne won an Academy Award nomination, and soon became the Vice President of Motown Industries as a whole. In 1983, she helped bring “Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever” to the small screen, to celebrate Motown’s 25th year in music. This particular show received rave reviews, mainly due to Michael Jackson’s iconic performance of “Billie Jean,” where he first showed America the “Moonwalk.” Suzanne won an Emmy for the show. She would go on to have the executive producer credit on other shows/miniseries such as Lonesome Dove, ”Sister, Sister,” “Smart Guy,” The Temptations, and “Showtime at the Apollo.”
Suzanne’s achievements in her career have also gained other awards and accolades. She has won Image Awards, Golden Globes, and an Essence Award, just to name a few. She’s also member of several boards and affiliations, like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, American Film Institute (trustee), Writer’s Guild of America, and the Producer’s Guild of America. Over the past forty plus decades, Suzanne has proven that if one puts her mind to it, anything can be achieved.
—-Written by Notzi
Sources: Bio. (http://www.biography.com/people/suzanne-de-passe-399740?page=2), Wikipedia