Entertainer, TV and film personality, and former beauty queen Vanessa Williams has made a name for herself in Hollywood. Overcoming scrutiny and scandal, and persevering with true talent and determination, Williams embodies the true spirit of stardom, serving as an inspiration to those looking to get into the business.
From an early age Williams had a passion for music and was adept in the areas of singing and dancing and even mastered various instruments including the French horn and violin. By the time she was 10, Williams had dedicated herself to her craft setting out to be the first African-American Rockette. Williams’ commitment to excellence and evident passion was soon recognized with a Presidential Scholarship for Drama and entrance to the Carnegie Mellon University which she ultimately turned down to instead attend New York’s Syracuse University.
In 1983 Williams made history being crowned America’s first African-American Miss America, entitling her to a $25,000 scholarship and several endorsement deals. However, due to a scandal revolving around nude photographs that had been leaked of the beauty queen, Vanessa’s dreams were dashed and she was never formally crowned Miss America.
However, in 2015, Vanessa returned to the Miss America stage as a judge. During the ceremonies, current Miss America organization CEO Sam Haskell apologized to Vanessa for the way the scandal was handled 32 years earlier, and lauded Vanessa for the grace and dignity she has exhibited throughout her life. While her resignation as 1984’s Miss America was a huge personal and professional loss, Vanessa’s drive and love for show business gave her the motivation to carry on and reinvent her career.
Williams was able to re-emerge as a film star; in 1987 she starred alongside Molly Ringwald, Robert Downey Jr. and Dennis Hopper in The Pick Up Artist. Later films included the 1996 film Eraser with Arnold Schwarzenegger and the 1997 film Soul Food. Williams’ more recent filmography includes Hannah Montana: The Movie and Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor.
In the late 80’s Vanessa began a successful singing career releasing her first album The Right Stuff which contained the hit single, “He’s Got the Look.” Williams’ second album The Comfort Zone garnered the star several Grammy nominations and her 1994 album The Sweetest Days reached platinum status. Memorable hits include “Save the Best for Last” and “Colors of the Wind” which was featured in the Disney movie Pocahontas.
Williams has proven her true star status easily toggling between the small screen, film, music and the stage. A true professional serious about her craft, Williams delivered a stellar performance as Aurora in the 1994 musical Kiss of the Spider Woman. She later went onto star in the 2002 production of Into the Woods and the 2013 production of The Trip to Bountiful.
Williams takes an active role in furthering performing arts and making opportunities available to various ethnicities. To that end, she is a supporter of her friend, Maria Torres‘ organization MTEAF (Maria Torres Emerging Artist Foundation), an inter-disciplinary education and mentoring program which guides and empowers pre-teens and young adults from undeserved ethnic areas to achieve their goals in the entertainment industry and performing arts. The organization supports Motivation, Teaching, Education, Action and Fellowship in order to assist young, dedicated and emerging artists via mentoring and professional instruction and guidance. Vanessa Williams and Maria Torres worked tirelessly together during the movie Dance with Me, starring Chayanne and Kris Kristofferson. The dance goes on.