Vanessa Williams won the Miss America title in 1983, becoming the first ever African-American woman to do so. The fairy tale hit a little bump when nude, explicit photos from her past were published in Penthouse magazine. Naturally, the scandal rocked the pageant and America, forcing Williams to resign ten months after her historic win.
As everyone knows, Vanessa eventually achieved her happy ending, become a successful singer, actress and Broadway star. Arguably, she’s the biggest name ever to emerge from the beauty pageant.
Pageant CEO Sam Haskell reveals she tried many years to woo back Williams. On Sunday, Saturday 13, Williams makes a triumphant return to Miss America. She’ll serve as head judge for the 95th competition. It’s a major coup for the beauty pageant.
“I have been friends with Vanessa for 32 years,” Miss America CEO Sam Haskell told the Associated Press. “When the photos were published, there were people urging her to fight, but close supporters knew if she lost that fight that she would be completely removed from the history books. Instead of pursuing what would surely have been a long and stressful legal battle, Vanessa decided to resign and focus on her career. Vanessa and her family were hurt during the aftermath of the resignation, and that saddened me.”
“Vanessa’s career speaks for itself, with all the success that she has had,” Haskell said. “When I became chairman of Miss America, one of the first calls I made was to Vanessa, to try to find a way to get her to come back. Her return as a huge success is a way for us all to move forward and put the past behind us. It’s truly an honor to welcome her back to the Miss America Pageant.”
“It was two drastically different images. That was the issue. It was Miss America who’s really kind of untouched in that reality. And then there was this woman in a picture,” Williams tells Robin Roberts in an interview airing Thursday, Sept 10. “That was exactly the polar opposite of purity. And I was a normal kid in the middle.”
Joining Williams on the judging panel are Brett Eldredge, Danica McKellar, Kevin O’Leary, Taya Kyle, Amy Purdy, and Zendaya. The 95th Miss America pageant will be posted by Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke-Charvet.
Normally, I don’t watch Miss America and instead choose Miss USA, but given this development and Donald Trump’s antics, I’m switching pageants. This year’s competition takes place on Sept 13 at 9pm. Weigh in below.