Vanessa Williams (born Vanessa Lynn Williams, 18.3.1963)
Vanessa Williams is an American singer-songwriter and actress. In 1983, Williams became the first African American woman to win the Miss America beauty pageant.
Vanessa Williams: Childhood
Vanessa Williams was born in the Tarrytown area of New York. Her mother and father, Helen and Milton Augustine Williams Jr. were both music teachers. Her brother, Chris Williams, grew up to be an actor. The two siblings were raised in the middle-class area of Millwood, New York.
As a child, Vanessa Williams studied French horn and piano and also enjoyed singing. She earned herself a scholarship to Syracuse University, studying for a major on Theatre Arts. She left the university when she won the Miss America contest, so that she could fulfill her role as the winner. She did, however, achieve a graduation certificate from the university 25 years later when she earned her remaining credits from her Tony-award winning Broadway shows.
Vanessa Williams: Beauty Pageants
Vanessa Williams first started entering beauty pageants in the 1980s. In 1983, she won Miss New York and in September that year, she was crowned Miss America 1984 and became the first African American woman to win the title. Williams received death threats and racial abuse prior to winning the title and 10 months into her reign, she received an anonymous phone call threatening to publish some nude photographs that had been taken of her before she won the title. Hugh Hefner refused to publish the pictures in Playboy on the grounds that they had not been authorised for release and did not want to embarrass Williams any further. However, Bob Guccione, the editor of Penthouse paid for the rights to the photos, regardless of Williams' wishes. As a result, Williams was stripped of her Miss America title.
Vanessa Williams: Music Career
In 1988, Vanessa Williams released her debut album, The Right Stuff. The lead single, of the same name, was a success on the US R&B charts. The second single was '(He's Got) The Look' and the third, 'Dreamin'', was Williams' first Top 10 hit on the mainstream Hot 100 chart. The album reached gold status and she won three Grammy Awards, including the Best New Artist Grammy.
Williams' second album, The Comfort Zone featured the hit single 'Running Back To You'. The next three singles, 'Just For Tonight', 'Work To Do' and 'Freedom Dance (Get Free!)' also performed well. Her biggest hit single to date, though, was 'Save The Best For Last' The single reached number one in the US singles charts and reached the top five in Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada. The Comfort Zone sold over 2 million copies in the US alone.
The third album from Vanessa Williams, released in 1994, was The Sweetest Days, which was a blend of jazz, hip-hop and Latin. It featured the tracks 'Betcha Never' and 'You Can't Run' which were written and produced by Babyface. The album was nominated for two Grammy awards.
In 1997, Williams released Next, and Everlasting Love in 2005.
Williams also released two Christmas albums. The first, Star Bright, was released in 1996 and the second, Silver and Gold, was released in 2004.
In 2009, Vanessa Williams announced a new album, to be released in June 2009, who is now signed to Concord Records.
Vanessa Williams: Acting Career
In 1994, Vanessa Williams was cast in a Broadway production of Kiss of the Spider Woman. She then appeared in a revival of Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim.
Williams has also landed roles in a number of feature films, with the most prominent being 1997's Soul Food. She also starred in the 1991 underground hit, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. She went on to star opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Eraser and opposite Chayanne in Dance With Me. In 2009, Williams featured in the Hannah Montana film, alongside Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana: The Movie.
A pivotal role for Williams was her performance as Wilhelmina Slater in the ABC comedy Ugly Betty, which is produced by Salma Hayek.
Vanessa Williams: Personal Life
Vanessa Williams' first marriage was to Ramon Hervey II, who was her manager at the time. They were married from 1987-97 and have three children together. Her second marriage was to Rick Fox, the ex basketball player. They eloped and married in 1999 and have one daughter together. They divorced in 2005.