Saving the Best for Last? Vanessa Williams Comes Full Circle

photo credit AP

30 second quiz — name another Miss America other than Vanessa Williams.

Yep. I couldn’t either.

Just over 3 decades ago, Vanessa Williams became the first African American to ever hold the title of Miss America. Ten months later, just seven weeks short of the end of her reign, she was forced to resign due to nude photos that were released of her.

It’s ironic, how in stark contrast to this present age of social media, where having a sex tape is almost a norm among celebrities, that a few nude photos could cause such an uproar.  But it did. I remember it firsthand, and all the judgment surrounding her. Lauren Duca in the Huffington Post did a great piece on the hypocrisy that surrounds beauty pageants in general as well as this scandal. You can give it a read here.

But my thoughts are more focused on the “story behind the glory”. Look at her now! After the initial scandal, she was a virtual pariah.  No one would work with her.  But all she needed is one break — and once she got it, she was unstoppable! She is an accomplished singer, songwriter, actress, author, dancer, model and producer. Vanessa Williams received her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007.

The story comes full circle as she returned to the Miss America pageant to judge this year’s competition. Miss America CEO Sam Haskell apologized on stage to both Vanessa Williams and her mother for the prior Miss America organization “making her feel less than the Miss America you are“. See the apology here.

vanessa-williams-receives-apology-from-miss-america-pageant-christal_rockBetter late than never; and she accepted the apology like a true queen.

But it is clear from the trajectory of Vanessa William’s career that she does not need the validation of anyone, least of all the Miss America organization. However, I wonder (maybe I am being a wee bit cynical here), if with the progress of the women’s movement, and the growing viewpoint that pageants which showcase predominantly beauty not brain are antiquated, that the Miss America organization is hoping to mend fences with a certain demographic while renewing interest with others?

Only time will tell.

But Vanessa Williams has been, and always will be, Miss America. And the only one anyone will remember, with a successful career after the crown.


Always feel free to weigh in!


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