Vanessa Williams

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Vanessa Williams
Vanessa Williams homezfoo.jpg
Williams on April 14, 2010
Born (1963-03-18) March 18, 1963 (age 56)
NationalityAmerican
Alma materSyracuse University
OccupationSinger, actress, record producer, producer, fashion model
Years active1983–present
Known forFirst African American Miss America
TitleMiss America 1984
Spouse(s)Ramon Hervey II (m. 1987 - 1997)
Rick Fox (m. 1999 - 2004)
Children4
Websitewww.vanessawilliams.com

Vanessa Lynn Williams (born March 18, 1963), known professionally as Vanessa L. Williams or Vanessa Williams, is an American singer, actress, producer and former fashion model. In 1983, she became the first African-American[1][2][3][4][5] woman crowned Miss America,[6] but a scandal occurred when Penthouse bought and published nude photographs of her. She left her title early and was succeeded by the first runner-up, Suzette Charles of New Jersey. Williams earned multiple Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award nominations.

Williams released her debut album The Right Stuff in 1988, which spawned the hits "The Right Stuff". "The Right Stuff" was a No. 1 on Hot Dance Songs. "Dreamin'" was a No. 1 on R&B and No. 8 on Billboard Hot 100. Her second studio album The Comfort Zone in 1991 topped the Billboard R&B Album Chart, which spawned the Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit "Save the Best for Last". In 1994 she performed on Broadway in the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman. In 1995 she recorded "Colors of the Wind", which became the Oscar-winner for Best Original Song from the Disney animated feature movie Pocahontas, which reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Early life[change | change source]

Williams was born in Millwood, New York. She is the daughter of music teachers Helen L. (née Tinch) and Milton Augustine Williams, Jr.[7][8][9][10] A DNA test revealed that her ancestry is 23% from Ghana, 17% from the British Isles, 15% from Cameroon, 12% Finnish, 11% Southern European, 7% Togo, 6% Benin, 5% Senegal and 4% Portuguese.[11] Her parents, put on her birth announcement "Here she is: Miss America"[12]

Miss America title[change | change source]

In September 1983, she became the first African American woman to be crowned Miss America,[6] There was a scandal when Penthouse magazine bought and published nude photographs of her. She gave up her title early and was succeeded by the first runner-up, Suzette Charles of New Jersey. Since then, Vanessa has been successful in every area of her life.

Singing career[change | change source]

Williams released her debut album The Right Stuff in 1988, which spawned the hits "The Right Stuff", a #1 on Hot Dance Songs, and "Dreamin'" a #1 on R&B and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Her second studio album, The Comfort Zone, in 1991 topped the Billboard R&B Album Chart, which spawned the Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit Save the Best for Last. In 1994, she did her first Broadway musical Kiss of the Spider Woman. In 1995, she recorded Colors of the Wind, the Oscar-winner for Best Original Song from the Disney animated feature film Pocahontas, which went to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Acting career[change | change source]

Williams' first film acting role was as the co-star of the Arnold Schwarzenegger feature film Eraser in 1996. She has also been in movies Soul Food, Dance with Me, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, Shaft and Johnson Family Vacation. From 2006 to 2010, she played the role of the scheming, self-absorbed diva and former supermodel Wilhelmina Slater in the ABC comedy series Ugly Betty, for which she got three Emmy Awards nominations. In 2009, Williams released her eighth studio album, The Real Thing. From 2010 to 2012, she starred in Desperate Housewives as spoiled rich woman Renee Perry. She currently stars in the supernatural drama series 666 Park Avenue.

Name conflict[change | change source]

Williams is most often known and publicly recognized simply as "Vanessa Williams". There is, however, occasional confusion with similarly named actress Vanessa A. Williams, who is just two months younger. It has been reported that Williams first became aware of Vanessa A. in the 1980s when her New York University registrar told her that another, similarly aged student with the same name and from the same state had applied.[13][14] When Williams appeared as Miss America in a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Vanessa A. accidentally received her check for the appearance, which she returned.[13]

The two ran into name conflict when Screen Actors Guild rules stopped the same stage naming. Vanessa A. had registered the name "Vanessa Williams" first.[13] As a compromise, Williams was occasionally credited as "Vanessa L. Williams" in acting credits. Both actresses starred in versions of the drama Soul Food (Williams in the film version, and Vanessa A. in its Soul Food adaptation). The Screen Actors Guild eventually took the issue to arbitration, and decided that both actresses could use the professional name "Vanessa Williams".[14] Today, Williams' prominence has led to a more wide association with the stage name "Vanessa Williams", so much so that it has widely become only known to her. She is credited as such in the American television series Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives. Williams is also the owner of the internet domain name vanessawilliams.com. Today, the younger Vanessa Williams is most often publicly and professionally referenced as "Vanessa A. Williams".

References[change | change source]

  1. "Vanessa Williams's ancestry revealed: One great great grandfather escaped slavery... the other was a politician who left 'a legacy more precious than gold". Daily Mail. London. February 6, 2011. As an African American growing up here in the States, there are a lot of records that we don't have.
  2. "A New York Debut". People. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  3. "Vanessa Williams biography". The Biography Channel. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  4. Wilson, Julee (September 17, 2012). "A Look Black: Vanessa Williams Crowned Miss America In 1983". The Huffington Post. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  5. "Vanessa Williams". CBS News. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "This Day in History – Sep 17, 1983: Vanessa Williams becomes first black Miss America". History.com. Retrieved January 4, 2014. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "vanessawins" defined multiple times with different content
  7. "Bio". The Official Vanessa Williams Web Site. Vanessa Williams. Archived from the original on February 11, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  8. "Vanessa L. Williams Biography (1963–)". Filmreference.com.
  9. "An Appreciation; Remembering Milton Williams, A Mentor to Music Students", The New York Times
  10. "Census". JET (Johnson Publishing Company) 70 (13): 18. June 16, 1986. ISSN 0021-5996. 
  11. "Actress Vanessa Williams Explains How DNA Powers Her Family Tree". ancestry.com. May 14, 2013.
  12. Entertainment Tonight interview. December 11, 2005.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Hobson, Louis B. (August 16, 1998), "Vanessa dancing up a storm", Canoe.ca
  14. 14.0 14.1 "Vanessa Williams: Boomtown's new Bombshell!". TV Guide. September 2, 2003.