Vanessa L. Williams

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Vanessa L. Williams
Vanessa Williams homezfoo.jpg
Williams on April 14, 2010
Born Vanessa Lynn Williams
(1963-03-18) March 18, 1963 (age 52)
Millwood, New York, United States
Residence Chappaqua, New York United States
Alma mater Syracuse University
Occupation Singer, actress, fashion model, record producer, producer
Years active 1983–present
Known for First African American Miss America
Title Miss America 1984
Miss New York 1983
Spouse(s) Ramon Hervey II
Rick Fox
Jim Skrip
(m. 2015)
Children 4

Vanessa Lynn Williams (born March 18, 1963) 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] Seven weeks before the end of her reign, however, a scandal arose when Penthouse magazine bought and published unauthorized nude photographs of Williams. She relinquished her title and was succeeded by the first runner-up, Suzette Charles of New Jersey. Williams rebounded by launching a career as an entertainer, earning multiple Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award nominations.

Williams released her debut album The Right Stuff in 1988, which spawned the hits "The Right Stuff", a No. 1 on Hot Dance Songs, and "Dreamin'", 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 and spawned the Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit "Save the Best for Last". In 1994 she debuted on Broadway in the 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, and reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Williams's first major film role was as the female lead in the film Eraser in 1996. She also starred in the 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 received 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 housewife Renee Perry. She starred in the supernatural drama series 666 Park Avenue in 2012.

Early life[edit]

Williams was born in Millwood, New York, 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 (specifically English, Welsh and Irish), 15% from Cameroon, 12% Finnish, 11% Southern European, 7% Togo, 6% Benin, 5% Senegal and 4% Portuguese.[11] Williams and her younger brother Chris, who is also an actor, grew up in Millwood, a predominantly white middle-class suburban area of New York City. Prophetically, her parents put on her birth announcement: "Here she is: Miss America."[12]


Williams studied piano and French horn growing up, but was most interested in singing and songwriting. She graduated in 1981 from Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, New York, received a scholarship and attended Syracuse University as a Musical Theatre Arts major from 1981 to 1983.[13] She interrupted her education at Syracuse during her sophomore year to fulfill her duties as Miss America, and subsequently left the university to focus on her entertainment career. Twenty-five years later, she graduated from Syracuse by earning her remaining college credits through her life experience. Williams delivered the convocation address on May 10, 2008, to 480 other students in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. She stated:

It's been 25 years since I was a student here. It just brought home what my message was, which is cherish the moment; these days are irreplaceable and are the beginning of the rest of your life.[14][15]

Pageants and Miss America title[edit]

Williams competed in the Miss Syracuse (University) beauty pageant when a campus musical she was in was canceled in 1983. After winning the Miss Syracuse title, Williams won the Miss New York crown in 1983, and went to compete for the Miss America title at the national pageant in Atlantic City. Prior to the final night of competition, Williams won both preliminary competitions (talent and swimsuit) earlier in the week. Each day's preliminary competitions have winners announced. Therefore, there can be as many as six "prelim" winners: three each for talent and swimsuit. To win a "prelim" in both is a strong precursor to success in the finals. She was crowned Miss America 1984 on September 17, 1983, becoming the first African American to win the title.[6] Williams' reign as Miss America was not without its challenges and controversies. For the first time in pageant history, a reigning Miss America was the target of death threats and hate mail.[16]

Ten months into her reign as Miss America, she received an anonymous phone call stating that nude photos of her taken before her pageant days had surfaced. Williams believed the photographs were private and had been destroyed; she claims she never signed a release permitting the photos to be used.

The black-and-white photos dated back to 1982 (the year before she won the Miss America Pageant), when she worked as an assistant and makeup artist for Mount Kisco, New York photographer Tom Chiapel. According to Williams, Chiapel advised her that he wanted to try a "new concept of silhouettes with two models". He photographed Williams and another woman in several nude poses.[17]

Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy, was initially offered the photos, but turned them down. Later, Hefner would explain why in People Weekly, "Vanessa Williams is a beautiful woman. There was never any question of our interest in the photos. But they clearly weren't authorized and because they would be the source of considerable embarrassment to her, we decided not to publish them. We were also mindful that she was the first black Miss America." Days later, Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse, announced that his magazine would publish the photos in their September 1984 15th anniversary issue, which was the same issue that featured nude photographs of Traci Lords, later found to have been only 15 years old at the time. The cover featured a photograph of a smiling Vanessa Williams with 88-year-old George Burns and the headline, Miss America, Oh, God, She's Nude! Guccione paid Chiapel for the rights to the photos without Williams' consent. According to the PBS documentary Miss America, the Penthouse issue featuring Williams would ultimately bring Guccione a $14 million windfall.[16] After days of media frenzy and sponsors threatening to pull out of the upcoming 1985 pageant, Williams felt pressured by Miss America Pageant officials to resign, and did so in a press conference on July 23, 1984. The title subsequently went to the first runner-up, Suzette Charles, also an African American. On September 7, 1984, Williams filed a $500 million lawsuit against Chiapel and Guccione. She eventually dropped the suit a year later, explaining that she wanted to put the scandal behind her and move on.[18][19]

Although she resigned from fulfilling the duties of a current Miss America, Williams was allowed to keep the bejeweled crown and scholarship money and is officially recognized by the Miss America Organization as "Miss America 1984"; Charles is recognized as "Miss America 1984-b".[20]

Music career[edit]

Williams released her debut album, The Right Stuff in 1988.[13] The first single, "The Right Stuff", found success on the R&B chart, while the second single, "He's Got the Look", found similar success on the same chart. The third single, "Dreamin'", was a pop hit, becoming Williams' first top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 8, and her first number one single on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The album reached gold status in the U.S. and earned her a NAACP Image Award and three Grammy Award nominations, including one for Best New Artist.[13]

Her second album The Comfort Zone became the biggest success in her music career.[13] The lead single "Running Back to You" reached top twenty on the Hot 100, and the top position of Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart on October 5, 1991. Other singles included "The Comfort Zone" (#2 R&B), "Just for Tonight" (#26 Pop), a cover of The Isley Brothers' "Work to Do" (#3 R&B), and the club-only hit "Freedom Dance (Get Free!)." The most successful single from the album, as well as her biggest hit to date, is "Save the Best for Last". It reached No. 1 in the United States, where it remained for five weeks, as well as No. 1 in Australia, the Netherlands, and Canada, and was in the top 5 in Japan, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The album sold 2.2 million copies in the U.S. at its time of release and has since been certified triple platinum in the United States by the RIAA, gold in Canada by the CRIA, and platinum in the United Kingdom by the BPI. The Comfort Zone earned Williams five Grammy Award nominations.[13] The Sweetest Days, her third album, was released in 1994 to highly-favorable reviews.[13] The album saw Williams branch out and sample other styles of music that included jazz, hip hop, rock, and Latin-themed recordings such as "Betcha Never" and "You Can't Run", both written and produced by Babyface. Other singles from the album included the adult-contemporary and dance hit "The Way That You Love" and the title track "The Sweetest Days". The album was certified platinum in the U.S. by the RIAA and earned her two Grammy Award nominations.[13]

Other releases include two Christmas albums, Star Bright, released in 1996, and Silver & Gold in 2004; Next in 1997, and Everlasting Love in 2005, along with a greatest-hits compilation released in 1998, and a host of other compilations released over the years.[13] Notable chart performances from subsequent albums, motion picture and television soundtracks have included the songs "Love Is", which was a duet with Brian McKnight, the Golden Globe- and Academy Award-winning "Colors of the Wind", "Where Do We Go from Here?", and "Oh How the Years Go By".[13] In total, Williams has sold more than six million records and has received 15 Grammy Award nominations. In May 2009 she performed two concerts at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City to sold out crowds. On June 2, 2009, she released her eighth studio album on Concord Records titled The Real Thing. It features songs written and/or produced by Babyface, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Bebel Gilberto, and Rex Rideout. Williams described the album as "a hybrid of samba, bossa nova, some salsa and also some pop and R&B". The title song "The Real Thing", the fourth single released from the album, peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart.[21]

Acting career[edit]

Williams in March 2012.

Theatrical roles[edit]

Williams broadened her ascendant music career into a theatrical role when she was cast in the Broadway production of Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1994.[22] She was also featured in the Tony-nominated and Drama Desk Award nominated performance as the Witch in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods in a revival of the show in 2002, which included songs revised for her.[23]

Other notable theatrical roles include her performances in Carmen Jones at the Kennedy Center,[24][25] the off-Broadway productions of One Man Band and Checkmates, and the New York City Center's Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert, St. Louis Woman.[26] In 2010, Williams starred in a new Broadway musical revue entitled Sondheim on Sondheim, a look at Stephen Sondheim through his music, film and videotaped interviews. Sondheim ran from March 19 to June 13 at Studio 54 in New York City.[27] As of April 26, 2013, Williams starred as Jessie Mae Watts in the Horton Foote play The Trip to Bountiful. Based on the 1985 movie of the same name, this production is scheduled to run from April 26 to July 7, 2013, at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in New York City.[28] Starting April 1, 2014, Williams will be a special guest star of the Broadway musical After Midnight at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Her run will last through May 11, and follows other celebrity features including k.d. lang and Toni Braxton.[29]

Feature film roles[edit]

Williams has appeared in several feature films. Her most prominent role was in the 1997 film Soul Food, for which she won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. Williams appeared in the 1991 cult classic film Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. She also co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Eraser[30] and opposite Chayanne in Dance with Me.[31]

In 2007, Williams returned to the big screen starring in two independent motion pictures, the first being My Brother,[32] for which she won Best Actress honors at the Harlem International Film Festival, the African-American Women in Cinema Film Festival and at the Santa Barbara African Heritage Film Festival, and the second being And Then Came Love. In 2009, she starred alongside Miley Cyrus in Hannah Montana: The Movie.[33] Williams stars as Janice in the movie Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor.[34]


Williams' first television appearance was on a 1984 episode of The Love Boat, playing herself.[35] She subsequently made guest appearances on a number of shows, including T.J. Hooker, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saturday Night Live, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, LateLine, MADtv, Ally McBeal[36] and Boomtown.[37]

Her appearances in television movies and miniseries include Perry Mason: The Case of the Silenced Singer and The Jacksons: An American Dream as Suzanne de Passe. In 1995, Williams starred as Rose Alvarez in a television adaptation of the 1960 Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie. She played the nymph Calypso in the 1997 Hallmark Entertainment miniseries The Odyssey, starring Armand Assante. She appeared as Ebony Scrooge the Ebenezer Scrooge character in an update of Charles Dickens' story A Christmas Carol called A Diva's Christmas Carol. In 2001, Williams starred in the Lifetime cable movie about the life of Henriette DeLille, The Courage to Love. In 2003, Williams read the narrative of Tempie Herndon Durham from the WPA slave narratives in the HBO documentary Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives. In early 2006 she starred in the short-lived UPN drama South Beach.[13][38] In 2006, Williams received considerable media attention for her comic/villainess role as former model/magazine creative director turned editor-in-chief Wilhelmina Slater in the ABC comedy series Ugly Betty.[13] Her performance on the series resulted in a nomination for outstanding supporting actress at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards.[39] She also provides the voice for the main character in the PBS Kids version of Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies. In 2008 and 2009, she was again nominated for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for Ugly Betty.[13]

A designer works on his creation for "The Heart Truth's" Red Dress Collection 2004 (Williams modeled the dress).

Williams joined the cast of Desperate Housewives for the seventh season.[40] Williams portrays Renee Perry, an old college friend/rival of Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman), as the new vixen on Wisteria Lane, moving into the late Edie Britt's old house. In 2012, she starred in the ABC supernatural drama series 666 Park Avenue.[41][42]

Other media appearances[edit]

Williams has appeared in advertisements for RadioShack.[43] She is a spokesmodel for Proactiv Solution,[44] and was the first African-American spokesmodel for L'Oréal cosmetics in the late 1990s.[45] Her other media appearances include endorsing Crest Rejuvenating Effects Toothpaste,[46] endorsing Disneyland and Universal Studios in a VisitCalifornia advertisement for British and Irish television in 2008, and hosting the 6th Annual 2008 TV Land Awards show.[47]

She appeared on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in 2000 as a contestant, and once again on August 10, 2009, as a celebrity guest during the show's 10th anniversary prime-time special editions, winning $50,000 for her charity.[48][49] In a commercial that began running during Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, Williams voiced the new character Ms. Brown, a brown M&M.[50]

Name conflict[edit]

Williams is most often referenced 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.[51][52] 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.[51]

In the area of acting, the two ran into name conflict when Screen Actors Guild rules prohibited duplicate stage naming. Vanessa A. had registered the name "Vanessa Williams" first,[51] so as a compromise, Williams was occasionally credited as "Vanessa L. Williams" in acting credits. To compound the confusion, both actresses starred in versions of the drama Soul Food (Williams in the film version, and Vanessa A. in its TV series adaptation). The Screen Actors Guild eventually took the issue to arbitration and decided that both actresses could use the professional name "Vanessa Williams".[52] Today, Williams' prominence has led to a more prevailing association with the stage name "Vanessa Williams", so much so that it has widely become solely attributable 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 Today, the younger Vanessa Williams is most often publicly and professionally referenced as "Vanessa A. Williams".

Personal life[edit]

Williams has been married three times. Her first marriage, to public relations consultant Ramon Hervey II, was from 1987 to 1997. Hervey later became Williams' manager.[53] The couple had two daughters, Melanie (born June 30, 1987) and Jillian (born June 19, 1989), and one son, Devin (born April 14, 1993).[54] Williams' daughter Jillian Hervey, following in her mother's footsteps, released her first single with the duo Lion Babe in 2012.[55]

Her second marriage was to NBA basketball player Rick Fox. They married in September 1999 and have a daughter, Sasha, born on May 1, 2000.[54] After The National Enquirer published pictures of Fox kissing and hugging another woman in mid-2004, Fox's representative announced that the couple had been "headed toward divorce" for over a year.[56] A few months later in August 2004, Fox filed for divorce.[57] Fox acted alongside Williams in two episodes during the second season of Ugly Betty,[13] playing the role of Dwayne, Wilhelmina's bodyguard.[58]

During an interview with Barbara Walters which aired on February 24, 2008, Williams not only admitted to using Botox but also called it "a miracle drug, no cutting, nothing, and I love it. But I also want to act so I don't do it to freeze my face."[59] Williams is a practicing Roman Catholic.[60] Williams and her mother, Helen, co-authored a memoir entitled You Have No Idea, published in April 2012. In the book, Williams discusses her childhood, rise to fame, and personal struggles, including the fact that she was sexually molested by a woman when she was 10 years old.[61][62] She also spoke candidly about her decision to have an abortion as a teenager.[63] Williams is a supporter of gay rights and same sex marriage and in 2011, she participated in a HRC campaign entitled “New Yorkers for Marriage Equality".[64]

During a taping of The Queen Latifah Show on September 26, 2014, Williams announced her engagement to Jim Skrip, a retired accountant from Buffalo.[65] They married on July 4, 2015.[66]




Year Title Role Notes
1987 Pick-up Artist, TheThe Pick-up Artist Rae, Girl with Dog
1988 Under the Gun Samantha Richards
1991 Another You Gloria Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor's final film pairing.
Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man Lulu Daniels
1996 Eraser Dr. Lee Cullen Nominated — Blockbuster Entertainment Award
1997 Hoodlum Francine Hughes
Soul Food Teri Image Award
Nominated — American Black Film Festival Black Film Award
1998 Dance with Me Ruby Sinclair Nominated — ALMA Award
1999 Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, TheThe Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland Queen of Trash
Light It Up Detective Audrey McDonald Nominated – Image Award
2000 Shaft Carmen Vasquez Nominated – Image Award
2004 Johnson Family Vacation Dorothy Johnson Nominated — BET Award for Comedy
2007 My Brother L'Tisha Morton Best Actress honors at the Harlem International Film Festival, the African-American Women in Cinema Film Festival and at the Santa Barbara African Heritage Film Festival
And Then Came Love Julie Davidson
2009 Hannah Montana: The Movie Vita (Hannah's Agent)
2011 Delhi Safari Beggum the Leopard voice: English version
2012 He's Way More Famous Than You Vanessa Williams
2013 Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor Janice


Year Title Role Notes
1984 Partners in Crime Roselle Robins "Celebrity" (Season 1, Episode 1)
1986 The Redd Foxx Show Jessica "The Prodigal Son" (Season 1, Episode 8)
T.J. Hooker Pat Williamson "Partners in Death" (Season 5, Episode 14)
The Love Boat Pearl "My Stepmother, Myself/Almost Roommates/Cornerback Sneak" (Season 9, Episode 24)
1989 Full Exposure: The Sex Tapes Scandal Valantine TV movie
1990 Kid Who Loved Christmas, TheThe Kid Who Loved Christmas Lynette TV movie
Perry Mason and the Case of the Silenced Singer Terri Knight TV movie
1992 Jacksons - An American Dream, TheThe Jacksons - An American Dream Suzanne de Passe TV movie
Stompin' at the Savoy Pauline TV movie
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Danny Mitchell "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Home from the Forum" (Season 3, Episode 11)
1995 Nothing Lasts Forever Dr. Kathy "Kat" Hunter TV movie
Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Beauty (voice) "Beauty and the Beast" (Season 1, Episode 11)
Bye Bye Birdie Rose Alvarez TV movie
1996 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Arandis "Let He Who Is Without Sin..." (Season 5, Episode 7)
1997 Odyssey, TheThe Odyssey Calypso Main role
1998 Futuresport Alex Torres TV movie
1999 L.A. Doctors Dr. Leanne Barrows "O Captain, My Captain" (Season 1, Episode 21)
"Que Sera, Sarah" (Season 1, Episode 22)
Every Picture Tells a Story" (Season 1, Episode 23)
2000 The Courage to Love Henriette DeLille TV movie
Don Quixote Dulcinea/Aldonza TV movie
A Diva's Christmas Carol Ebony Scrooge TV movie
2001 WW3 M.J. Blake TV movie
Santa Baby Alicia (voice) TV movie
2002 Keep the Faith, Baby Hazel Scott TV movie
Ally McBeal Sheila Hunt "Another One Bites the Dust" (Season 5, Episode 19)
The Proud Family Debra (voice) "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thingy, Baby" (Season 2, Episode 3)
2003 Boomtown Detective Katherine Pierce "The Love of Money" (Season 2, Episode 1)
"Inadmissible" (Season 2, Episode 2)
"Wannabe" (Season 2, Episode 3)
"The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang" (Season 2, Episode 4)
"Haystack" (Season 2, Episode 5)
"The Big Picture" 9 (Season 2, Episode 6)
2006 South Beach Elizabeth Bauer Series Regular, 8 episodes
2006–10[67] Ugly Betty Wilhelmina Slater Series Regular, 85 episodes
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (2007, 2008)
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (2007)
Teen Choice Award for Choice TV Villain
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (2007, 2008, 2009)
Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (2006, 2009)
Nominated – Teen Choice Award for Choice TV Villain
Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series (2007)
2007–08 Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies Mama Mirabelle Animated; Voice; 23 episodes
2010–12[68] Desperate Housewives Renee Perry[69] Main Role, Series Regular (Seasons 78); 46 episodes
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (2011)
2012–13 666 Park Avenue Olivia Doran Series Regular
2012 Phineas and Ferb Stewardess Animated; voice; Where's Perry (Part 1)
2014 The Haunting Of Vanessa Williams" Lifetime Movie Network
2015 The Mindy Project Dr. Suzanne Phillips Series 3, Episode 17, Danny Castellano Is My Nutritionist
2015 Royal Pains Olympia Houston 2 episodes

Plays and musicals[edit]

Year Title
1985 One Man Band
1989 Checkmates
1994–95 Kiss of the Spider Woman
1998 St. Louis Woman
2002 Carmen Jones
Into the Woods
2010 Sondheim on Sondheim
2013 The Trip to Bountiful
2014 After Midnight


Year Title
1994 The Essence Awards
Carnegie Hall Salutes the Jazz Masters: Verve Records at 50
1998 29th NAACP Image Awards
2002 It's Black Entertainment
2008 The 6th Annual TV Land Awards
2009 The 36th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards
Dreams Come True: A Celebration of Disney Animation

Awards and accolades[edit]

Grammy Awards history[edit]

Williams has received eleven Grammy nominations without a win. The only female artists to have received more competitive nominations with no wins are Martina McBride, Björk, Katy Perry, and Diana Ross.

Year Category Track/album Result
1989 Best New Artist Vanessa L. Williams Nominated
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance "The Right Stuff" Nominated
1990 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance "Dreamin'" Nominated
1992 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance "Runnin' Back to You" Nominated
1993 Record of the Year "Save the Best for Last" Nominated
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance "Save the Best for Last" Nominated
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance "The Comfort Zone" Nominated
Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals "Love Is" Nominated
1995 Best Female Pop Vocal Performance "Colors of the Wind" Nominated
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance "The Way That You Love" Nominated
1997 Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album Star Bright Nominated

Other awards/nominations[edit]

Year Award body Category Awarded for Result
1983 Miss America N/A N/A Won
1989 NAACP Image Award Outstanding New Artist "The Right Stuff" Won
1993 American Music Award Favorite Female Artist – Pop / Rock "The Comfort Zone" Nominated
Favorite Female Artist – Soul / R&B "The Comfort Zone" Nominated
Favorite Album – Adult Contemporary "The Comfort Zone" Nominated
MTV Video Music Awards Best Female Video "Save the Best for Last" Nominated
Best Cinematography "Runnin' Back to You" Nominated
Billboard Music Award No. 1 Adult Contemporary Single "Love Is" Won
Playboy Magazine Best Female R&B Vocalist. "The Comfort Zone" Won
1994 Theatre World Award Best Debut Performance "Kiss of the Spider Woman" Won
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Female Artist "The Sweetest Days" Won
Soul Train Music Award[73] Best R&B Single by Group, Band or Duo "Love Is" Nominated
1996 Soul Train Music Award "Lady of Soul" Award Career Achievement Won
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Female Artist "Where Do We Go From Here" Nominated
Blockbuster Entertainment Award Favorite Actress – Action Eraser Nominated
Lena Horne award For Outstanding Artistic Contribution to the Entertainment Won
1997 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture Soul Food Won
Outstanding Album "Next" Nominated
Outstanding Actress in Mini-Series The Odyssey Nominated
Online Television Academy Awards Best Guest Actress – Syndicated Series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Nominated
Black Film Awards Best Actress – Motion Picture Soul Food Nominated
1999 ALMA Award Best Song from A Movie "You Are My Home" Nominated
2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Award Favorite Actress – Action Shaft Nominated
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Light It Up Nominated
2001 Shaft Nominated
Drama League Award Most Distinguished Performance Into the Woods Nominated
2002 Satellite Awards Best Actress – Miniseries or Movie Keep the Faith, Baby Won
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in Mini-Series Nominated
Black Reel Awards Best Actress Nominated
Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Into the Woods Nominated
2004 BET Comedy Awards Outstanding Lead Actress in a Box Office Movie Johnson Family Vacation Nominated
2006 Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actress in a Series Ugly Betty Nominated
2007 Screen Actors Guild Awards Best Performance – Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Won
Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice TV Villain Won
Hollywood Walk of Fame Recording Career Achievement Won
2008 Human Rights Campaign "Ally for Equality" Award Humanitarian Work Won
Jacobi Children's Arts Award "Humanitarian/Charitable" Won
Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actress in a Series Ugly Betty Won
Screen Actors Guild Awards Best Performance – Ensemble in a Comedy Series Nominated
Best Performance – Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Won
Teen Choice Awards Choice TV Villain Nominated
Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
2009 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies Nominated
Emmy Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Ugly Betty Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actress in a Series Nominated
2010 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
Outstanding Jazz Album The Real Thing Nominated
Mary Pickford Award[74][75] For Outstanding Artistic Contribution to the Entertainment Industry Won
2011 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series Desperate Housewives Won
Satellite Awards Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series, Mini Series or TV Movie Desperate Housewives Won
2012 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series Desperate Housewives Nominated
Ride of Fame[76] N/A Life's Work Won
2013 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Desperate Housewives Won
2014 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series 666 Park Avenue Nominated
2015 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special The Trip To Bountiful Nominated

See also[edit]


  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 February 23, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Vanessa Williams biography". The Biography Channel. Retrieved February 23, 2013. 
  4. ^ Wilson, Julee (September 17, 2012). "A Look Black: Vanessa Williams Crowned Miss America In 1983". The Huffington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Vanessa Williams". CBS News. Retrieved February 23, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "This Day in History – Sep 17, 1983: Vanessa Williams becomes first black Miss America". Retrieved November 28, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Bio". The Official Vanessa Williams Web Site. Vanessa Williams. Archived from the original on February 11, 2011. Retrieved May 16, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Vanessa L. Williams Biography (1963–)". 
  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". May 14, 2013. 
  12. ^ Entertainment Tonight interview. December 11, 2005.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Vanessa Williams- Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  14. ^  . "Vanessa Williams graduates from SU". 
  15. ^ "Vanessa Williams receives diploma after 25 years",
  16. ^ a b "People & Events: Breaking the Color Line at the Pageant". PBS. 
  17. ^ Tom Chiapel (September 1984). "Here she comes, Miss America". Penthouse. pp. 66–75. ISSN 0090-2020. 
  18. ^ Stark, John; Alexander, Michael (January 30, 1989). "Ex-Miss America Vanessa Williams Overcomes Her Disgrace by Showing and Singing the Right Stuff". People. Retrieved September 25, 2011. 
  19. ^ "THE REGION; Ex-Miss America Sues Over Photos". The New York Times. September 8, 1984. 
  20. ^ "Miss America 1984". Miss America Organization. Retrieved May 3, 2012. 
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External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Debra Maffett
Miss America
Succeeded by
Suzette Charles
Preceded by
Eileen Clark
Miss New York
Succeeded by
Melissa Manning