Vanessa Williams is returning to the Miss America pageant 32 years after the scandal that saw her resign. See what she has to say about being back with the organization, this time as a judge, in her exclusive interview on GMA.
Yes, 32 years is a long time. We’re talking about an entirely different era — 1983, when she made history as the first African-American woman to be crowned Miss America. But it was not long afterwards that Vanessa Williams made history again, unfortunately, not as a trailblazer but as the first winner to ever resign after a scandal. Back in those days, those photos that surfaced were just much, too much for the organization and much, too much for the era.
But as we know, instead of disappearing into obscurity in shame, it was just the opposite. The now 52-year-old has gone on to become arguably the most famous and successful of all the winners as a multi-hypenate television star of ‘Ugly Betty’ and ‘Desperate Housewives,’ as well as a Broadway star and an R&B and pop music singer.
Now, in returning as a judge, she told ‘Good Morning America’ co-anchor Robin Roberts, “Why now? I’ve got a perfect platform to kind of be reintroduced to the organization that catapulted me into notoriety and stardom.”
Asked to reflect upon what it was like, as Miss New York, to win that short-lived title, she said, “That was my first time I was against women I had been little miss this and that since they were infants. I didn’t know I was going to win.” She went on to say, “I knew I was smart enough. I knew everything took but I didn’t know that would be the year.”
As for the scandal, Williams, said, “I was stupid and I took some pictures and apparently they’re coming out and my parents said, okay, well, we love you and we’ll deal.”
Asked how she felt about having lost her crown for that when, as Roberts put it, “people now release things to make a career.” She said, “Yes. That’s crazy. To think that, oh, you can look at a scandal and think that would be good for your career where for me it took every ounce of credibility that I had and wiped it out.”
Asked what it was like, when she announced, at a press conference, that she was resigning, Vanessa Williams said, “I had people saying fight for the crown, fight for the crown. Fight, Vanessa, fight.”
She went on to say, “It was really hard for my mom. There was an incredible amount of shame and humiliation that she was confronted with because of what had happened to me and at that point I wanted to get on with my life.”
Asked about her comeback which began four years later, she said, “At that time my husband was the one that said, listen, if you want to control your career you should be a recording artist.” Reflecting on her success which began with such iconic 1980s hits as “Save the Best for Last,” she said, “I knew again once the dust would settle I get a chance to show people who I am.”
Asked about her return and what she thought the reaction would be, she said, “That’s a new day there and there are a lot of people that do feel that I should return. They are inviting me back as an example of this is what can happen to you in your life and there might be some more surprises, so we’ll see.”
And of course, the rest is history. And history is about to be made again when she returns as a judge. Surprising that it has taken so long, given her stature in the entertainment industry for so many years. After all, how many hit singles, hit Broadway shows and hit television series did Vanessa Williams have to be in to be accepted again, finally? How many Grammy, Emmy and Tony Award nominations did it have to take to be taken back into the fold of the organization which bills itself as the largest provider of scholarships to women in the world?
You can see Vanessa Williams’ talking about Miss America and her return in the video below!