- Full Name Suzanne de Passe
- Occupation Music Industry Executive, Talent Management Expert
- Nationality American
- Birthplace New York City, New York
- Birth Date Jul 19, 1948
- Age 74 Years, 2 Months
"I think Berry Gordy is a genius, I really do, and it's not a word I throw around lightly. But with all that comes the idiosyncratic behavior of a self-made, talented, creative person, and that's not easy to come up against."
"I consider myself a product of Berry Gordy, but not a clone... He and I are always friends and colleagues, and I will always revere him as a mentor and boss. Though, of course, I'm always struggling for more equal footing."
"Motown wasn't just pioneering a sound but a cultural dynamic."
Suzanne de Passe | Biography 2021Former Vice President of Motown Industries
Cindy Birdsong, a Supremes member, introduced de Passe to Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records. When she started, she had only impressed Gordy enough to make him give her job on the spot to help the company “straighten it out.” She had told him about her failed efforts to sign talents from Motown Records. “I want to book Smokey and Martha and the Vandellas but your man won’t return my calls,” she complained to him. But after three weeks on the job, Gordy hired her as his personal assistant, and she moved to Detroit, Michigan, to work under his wings. Under the mentorship of Gordy—who also taught her about creative aspects of the business—she then annexed several reverent positions for over 20 years after joining the label in 1968.
Suzanne de Passe is an entertainment producer who fostered the careers of some of the most famous entertainers, including Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. She also executive produced one of the most-watched and critically praised television miniseries of all time, the Lonesome Dove, which aired in 1989.
Who is Suzanne de Passe?
Suzanne de Passe is an American businesswoman, television, music, film producer, and writer. She began her career with Motown Records in 1968, and after more than 20 years of service in several high-ranking roles at the label, she founded de Passe Entertainment Group, LLC, in 1992. She attributes her participative business style to a number of progressive, integrated private institutions, including Jack and Jill and the New Lincoln School, where she was enrolled.
As part of Motown Records, de Passe holds credits for the development of performers such as Michael Jackson, The Commodores, The Jackson Five, and Stephanie Mills.
de Passe also executive produced the critically appraised and award-winning television miniseries, Lonesome Dove (1889-1992), as well as Sister, Sister (1994-1999) and Smart Guy (1994-1999). She was nominated for an ‘Academy Award’ for co-writing the screenplay of Lady Sings the Blues (1972), in addition to her work as a writer and producer.
She has received ‘Emmy Awards’ as executive producer of the music documentary ‘Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever (1983) and the television special Motown Returns to the Apollo (1985).
What is Suzanne de Passe's Nationality and Family Background?
Born on 19 July 1948, de Passe was born to West Indian immigrant parents in Harlem, New York. Her mother took over the teaching occupation, while her father worked for Seagrams, Inc. as an executive.
Her family was part of the African-American elite of New York City. Her family resided in the middle-class Riverton Apartments in Harlem, where she liked going to the theater, taking dance courses, and enjoying summer trips to Martha’s Vineyard.
Her parents split when she was three years old, but they continued sharing an amicable bond keeping aside their circumstances. Despite De Passe’s father’s second marriage, she says that she “had the benefit of an extremely harmonious relationship between three people.”
de Passe went to numerous progressive, integrated private institutions as a child, including Jack and Jill and the New Lincoln School, which she acknowledges for instilling a proactive business strategy in her.
Later, she moved on to Manhattan High School, and after graduating in 1964, she enrolled at Syracuse University, where she majored in English in order to pursue a degree in writing. But after a disappointing freshman year at Syracuse and being unhappy with the small African-American population, de Passe went to Manhattan Community College to be closer to home but soon dropped out.
de Passe dropped out of Manhattan Community College in 1966 at 19 as she remained unsatisfied with the educational experience. She then increased visits to her favorite hangout spot, a dance club name Cheetah Disco in New York.
Talent Coordinator At Cheetah Disco
Eventually, she was hired by the Cheetah owners as a talent coordinator after being impressed by her expression on music and direct feedback to the staff.
As a talent coordinator, she acted as “the last living authority on live music in New York.,” but according to her, she was “pretty obnoxious.”
Howard Stein Talent Agency
Later, she left the Cheetah Disco with an instilled understanding of technical and artistic aspects of the music industry. She then went on to work as a booking agent for the Howard Stein talent agency.
Cindy Birdsong, a Supremes member, introduced de Passe to Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records.
When she started, she had only impressed Gordy enough to make him give her job on the spot to help the company “straighten it out.” She had told him about her failed efforts to sign talents from Motown Records. “I want to book Smokey and Martha and the Vandellas but your man won’t return my calls,” she complained to him.
But after three weeks on the job, Gordy hired her as his personal assistant, and she moved to Detroit, Michigan, to work under his wings.
Under the mentorship of Gordy—who also taught her about creative aspects of the business—she then annexed several reverent positions for over 20 years after joining the label in 1968.
Stints at Motown Records
Kicking off her placement in Motown in 1968, de Passe furthered her position in Motown’s talent acquisition in the 1970s and eventually became the director of Motown’s West Coast creative division.
She then became the vice president of Motown Industries. Gradually, she had ascended through the ranks at Motown, first as the vice president of the West Coast division and ultimately as vice president of the entire Motown Industries. She played a crucial role in the rise of performers such as Michael Jackson, The Jackson Five, The Commodores, and Stephanie Mills as the vice president of Motown’s Creative Division. In 1981, she landed as president of Motown Productions, considering her notable contribution to increasing the value and revenue of the company.
Throughout her venture at Motown, Berry Gordy kept serving as her mentor at the label.
In addition, de Passe co-wrote the Billie Holiday biopic Lady, Sings the Blues in 1972. The biopic starred Diana Ross and was a major Motown project.
Eventually, de Passe would gain prominence by producing multiple highly rated specials, including Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, which helped a lot in building the company’s revenue through associated music album releases. She also contributed her writing and production skills to two other Motown-produced stage productions, Mahogany and The Wiz. Even after leaving Motown, de Passe continued to produce specials honoring the label’s several decades-long histories.
de Passe has contributed as an executive producer to various films and television shows, some of which include, Happy Endings (1982), Motown Returns to the Apollo (1885), Showtime at the Apollo (1987), about four episodes of Lonesome Dove (1989), Bridesmaids (1989), Small Sacrifices (1989), Motown 30: What’s Goin’ On! (1990), two episodes of The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992), four episodes of Return to Lonesome Dove (1993), Someone Else’s Child (1994), four episodes of On Our Own (1994-1995), Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years (1995), three episodes of Dead Man’s Walk (1996) and Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century (1999).
Her noteworthy credits as an executive producer incorporate the TV series: Smart Guy (1997-1999), Sister, Sister (1994-1999) and Daytime Divas (2017), and the TV movies: Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland (2017), Cheaters (2000), and Zenon: The Zequel (2001), Errors of the Human Body (2012).
In addition, she has executive produced award shows such as 32nd NAACP Image Awards (2001), 34th NAACP Image Awards (2003), Essence Awards (2003), and produced the Essence Awards (2002).
She has also executive produced few TV movie documentaries, namely, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever (1983), Motown on Showtime: Temptations and Four Tops (1986), Marvin Gaye (1987), Smokey Robinson: The Quiet Legend (1990), Motown 40: The Music Is Forever (1998) and also the video documentary, Michael Jackson: The Legend Continues(1989).
She also holds the title of screenwriter, and her creations include Lady, Sings the Blues (19720, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever (1983), Motown 40: The Music Is Forever (1998), The Black Movie Awards (2005) and a video, ABFF Honors (2020). She was a script supervisor for the TV special, Goin’ Back to Indiana, in 1971 and creative consultant for another TV special, Diana!, the same year. She was acknowledged with special thanks in the TV Movie documentary 50 Years of Star Trek in 2016.
de Passe Jones Entertainment Group
In 1992, she and Gordy founded de Passe Entertainment after Motown was sold. As of now, de Passe serves as the co-chairman of the de Passe Jones Entertainment Group. The company has received a total of two ‘Emmy Awards,’ thirty ‘Emmy Nominations,’ one ‘Golden Globe,’ one ‘Oscar Nomination,’ five ‘NAACP Image Awards,’ and three ‘Peabody Awards.’
Awards and recognition
de Passe has several accolades under her belt; a few of those are: ‘Women in Film Crystal Award’ (1988), ‘The Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award,’ ‘The AWRT (American Women in Radio and Television) Silver Satellite Award’ (1999), ‘Revlon Business Woman of the Year Award’ (1994), ‘Essence Award’ (1989), ‘Women in Film Crystal Award’ (1988), Ebony magazine’s highest honor, ‘2004 Madame C. J. Walker Award,’ ‘2003 Whitney M. Young Award,’ Los Angeles Urban League’s highest accolade and ‘Essence Magazine Trailblazer Award, Women in Hollywood.’ She was also Inducted into the ‘Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame’ (1990) and ‘TV Producer of the Year Award’ by the American Film Institute in 1995.
In addition, she shared a nomination (with Terence McCloy and Chris Clark) for the 1973 ‘Oscar’ for ‘Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Factual Material or Material Not Previously Published or Produced’ for Lady, Sings the Blues (1972).
What is Suzanne de Passe's Net Worth
de Passe has a net worth of $40 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. According to her website, she was directly responsible for over $2 billion in revenue from the entertainment industry. In 2016, she had listed her Beverly Hills house for $5.5 million.
de Passe married actor Paul Lematt in 1978, and the couple had two children before separating.