Breathtakingly beautiful singer, dancer, and actress Vanessa Lynn Williams (1963-) was born on this day in Millwood, New York, the daughter of two Catholic school music teachers.
"I've been singing and acting my whole life," she said.
Williams was the first African American to win, then resign, the Miss America title in 1984 after Penthouse's publication of her infamous nude photos. "The past just came up and kicked me," she explained. "Not only was I a former beauty queen, which is a hard image to overcome, but I was a dethroned, scandalous beauty queen."
Williams picked herself up and launched a soulful R&B career with the hit album The Right Stuff (1988). Turning to acting, she followed with a hit Broadway debut in Kiss Of The Spider Woman and motion picture roles in Eraser (1996, w/Arnold Schwarzenegger), Soul Food (1997), Hoodlum (1997), and Shaft (2000).
In 1991, she gained international fame with the hit album The Comfort Zone, which featured the truly lovely smash hit Save the Best for Last. Her rendition of Colors of the Wind from the Disney's animated Pocahontas (1995) won two Grammy awards and an Oscar. Williams has been awarded two NAACP Image Awards and nine Grammy Award nominations.
She received critical acclaim as the evil editor Wilhelmina Slater in the ABC comedy series Ugly Betty. "Changing attitudes will change lives," she said. "Fear and ignorance are what perpetuates misunderstanding. If you donít take time to have an experience with someone different from you, you always will judge them."
An advocate and Board Member with the Special Olympics, Williams has also worked with Green Chimneys, a New York organization that provides housing for emotionally injured and at-risk children.
"There is a luxury to having people doubt you. Every time I do something new, people are genuinely surprised," said Williams, unashamed of anything in her past. "It's nothing new. I'm used to proving myself."
Nothing beats success.