Vanessa Williams Opens Up About Being Revoked of Miss America Crown: ‘It Was Many Years of Struggle

by Xara Aziz
Instagram @vanessawilliamsofficial

Vanessa Williams has built a successful career following the backlash she faced when nude photos of her surfaced following her 1984 Miss America win. But in a recent interview, she said it wasn’t easy to overcome it.

On a recent episode of the Tamron Hall Show, the 60-year-old Bronx native said that she was filled with gratitude to have overcome the hard times that could have potentially ruined her career.

“I am in the most thankful place that I am in my life I think because I look at what I dreamed about,” Williams said. “You know, at 20 years old when I became famous and I had no idea what was in store for me, some was rough, some was amazing. But the fact that I got a chance to survive it all and go through the ups and downs and be supported by people, by family and live out my dreams, that’s what gives me solace.”

Williams made history when she became the first Black woman to win the Miss America pageant, but her run as the nation’s beauty queen came to a screeching halt when a photographer sold racy photos of her to Penthouse, 10 months after she was crowned queen.

When the images surfaced, the beauty queen was forced to resign from her role –  a decision made by the Miss America executive committee. She was 21 years old at the time and was just two months shy of fulfilling her 12-month term. 

“It didn’t happen overnight. It was many years of struggle… and sticking to who I was,” she said.

Since then Williams has gone on to build a legendary career as an actress, singer, producer and philanthropist. She was even invited to serve as a judge for the 2014 Miss America pageant and received an apology from former Miss America CEO Sam Haskell.

“I have been a close friend to this beautiful and talented lady for 32 years. You have lived your life in grace and dignity, and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned,” Haskell told Williams. “Though none of us currently in the organization were involved then, on behalf of today’s organization, I want to apologize to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams. I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be.”

Williams currently serves as a judge on Paramount+’s Queen of the Universe, a singing competition featuring the most talented drag queens from across the globe.

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