'Designing Women's Delta Burke Says She Tried Crystal Meth to Lose Weight: 'Hollywood Will Mess Your Head Up'

The star opened up during a recent podcast interview, sharing how the relentless critique of her body led to her leaving Hollywood.

Designing Women star Delta Burke is opening up about the intense scrutiny she faced over her weight during the peak of her fame in the '80s and '90s; and the drastic measures she felt compelled to undergo for weight loss.

During an appearance on the Glamorous Trash podcast, Burke, 67, candidly recalled how the "incredibly ugly" narratives surrounding her weight during her tenure as Suzanne Sugarbaker on the show for five seasons led to her eventual exit from the series in 1991. She explained to host Chelsea Devantez that while she had always struggled with her weight -- she had even been prescribed weight-loss pills while attending acting school in London -- it wasn't until she returned to America that the pressure became immense.

Burke revealed that during her time starring on the series Filthy Rich, someone on set offered to get her pills similar to her previous prescription, which she discovered were illegal in the United States. Referred to as "Black Beauties," Burke said she would take the pills in the morning, "so you won't eat."

"They were like medicine to me," she said of the pills she took during Filthy Rich's two-season run from 1982 to 1983. 

According to Drugs.com, Black Beauties was the street name for "a combination amphetamine capsule" in the 1960s and 1970s. It was a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine marketed as diet pills until they were officially pulled out of the market in 1998.

Burke emphasized that it "wasn't a recreational thing," and that she soon built a tolerance to the pills that led to someone on the show suggesting she try methamphetamine. 

Annie Potts, Dixie Carter, Jean Smart and Delta Burke on 'Designing Women' - CBS via Getty Images

"Nobody knew about crystal meth at the time," she told Devantez. "[They told me,] 'You chop it up. You snort.' I said, 'I don't want to snort it.' So I put it in cranberry juice and [drank] it... and wouldn't eat for five days."

Despite her efforts, industry professionals and fans still found reasons to criticize her body.

"They were still saying, 'Your butt's too big. Your legs are too big,'" Burke recalled. "And I now look back at those pictures and go, 'I was a freaking goddess.'"

"Now, had I arrived when [Jennifer Lopez] was around and they were welcoming curves, things probably would have been different," Burke quipped.

"They treat serial killers kinder than if you put on some weight," she added. "You put on weight, and it's the final thing you can really criticize people about. You're not protected in any way, and you don't know what's going on with that person."

When the actress starred on Designing Women, she says the criticism seemed relentless. So much so that the series even made it a plot point in several episodes. Burke also discussed her weight-loss struggles in her 1998 memoir, Delta Style: Eve Wasn’t a Size 6 and Neither Am I.

Burke starred alongside Dixie Carter, Annie Potts and Jean Smart as the main players of the series, which ran for seven seasons on CBS. 

"When I was doing the show, I knew I had always struggled with my weight and everything," Burke said on the podcast. "It wasn't until I was making an appearance somewhere and some woman came up to me and thanked me for representing us. She was talking about full-figured gals, plus-sized women. I hadn't even thought of myself that way."

Delta Burke on 'Designing Women' - CBS via Getty Images

But it wasn't always enough for Burke.

"We do Designing Women, and I'm so happy to be there," she shared. "I love everything. But then things started to change, which I won't go into. But that, combined with becoming famous, I simply couldn't cope with."

Burke left the series in its fifth season, which she told Devantez was because she was "emotionally too fragile" to deal with the "incredibly ugly" stories about her size. 

"I thought I was stronger. I tried very hard to defend myself against lies and all the ugliness that was there and I wasn't gonna win. I'm just an actress, you know. I don't have any power," Burke explained.

At the time, Burke claimed psychological abuse from series creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and her husband, Harry Thomason, an executive producer on the show. She alleged that Bloodworth-Thomason pressured her to lose weight. Meanwhile, the Thomasons blamed Burke's husband, Major Dad star Gerald McRaney, for the falling out. She changed after she began dating him, they claimed.

Gerald McRaney and Delta Burke at the 2020 Hollywood Show in February 2020 - Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Burke cited McRaney's presence as the balm for the tumultuous roller coaster that was her relationship with Hollywood. The two met in 1987 and married two years later, in 1989. They've been together ever since.

"Whatever went down that was bad, it was worth it because I met him. No one had ever loved me completely for me, not even my mother or grandmother. They would judge what I looked like. He never did," she said. 

Burke stepped away from Hollywood and kept a low profile.

"Hollywood will mess your head up... You kind of go along with these work schedules where one of you is out of town for months at a time or whatever. You're going along working and then finally it just got too much for me," Burke, who now lives in Florida with McRaney, said. "It got too ugly. And all of a sudden, one day, it was like the joy of acting left me. It had been ruined by the ugliness that goes, unfortunately, with a lot of the business. I just withdrew from the work because the joy was not there anymore."