- NAME: Vanessa Williams
- OCCUPATION: Actress, Singer
- BIRTH DATE: March 18, 1963 (Age: 50)
- Did You Know?: Six months after entering her first beauty pageant, Vanessa Williams made history when she was crowned the first African-American Miss America on September 17, 1983.
- EDUCATION: Syracuse University
- PLACE OF BIRTH: The Bronx, New York
- Full Name: Vanessa Lynn Williams
- AKA: Vanessa Williams
- ZODIAC SIGN: Pisces
Best Known For
Vanessa Williams is an actress and singer known for her Miss America scandal and her roles on television shows such as Ugly Betty.
Vanessa Williams made magic happen after releasing the Grammy-nominated single, "Save the Best for Last."
Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America in 1984. Shortly thereafter a series of nude photographs surfaced causing a great scandal for Williams.
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In 1983, Vanessa Williams made history when she was crowned the first African-American Miss America. But soon thereafter, nude photos of Williams were plastered on the pages of Penthouse magazine. Horrified, the Miss America pageant board asked Williams to resign her post. Williams soon started a singing career, finding great success and then branching out into acting, again with success.
Entertainer Vanessa Lynn Williams was born on March 18, 1963, in Bronx, New York. Williams's parents, Milton and Helen, both worked as music educators. They moved Vanessa and her brother, Chris, to the upscale suburbs of Millwood, New York, when Vanessa was 12 months old, so they could take jobs as music teachers in Millwood's public school system.
Music was an integral part of Vanessa's early life, and by the time she was 10, she had devoted herself almost completely to music and dance. With plans to become the first African-American Rockette, she studied classical and jazz dance as well as theatre arts. She also excelled at French horn, piano, and violin. A natural performer and outgoing student, Williams was a high achiever who landed the Presidential Scholarship for Drama at graduation and gained entry into the Carnegie Mellon University theater arts program in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Although she was only one of 12 students accepted into Carnegie Mellon's program that year, Williams decided to attend Syracuse University in upstate New York instead.
During the summer of her freshman year at Syracuse, 19-year-old Williams took a job as a receptionist and makeup artist for local photographer Tom Chiapel. Chiapel frequently arranged photo-shoots involving female nudes, and when the photographer expressed interest in using Williams as a model, she took the chance. Williams sat for two sessions with Chiapel, followed by a third session with another photographer in New York City. Dissatisfied with the provocative nature of the third photos, she asked for the negatives and thought they had been destroyed.
Williams returned to Syracuse in the fall, and continued to study theater and music. Around this time, she was asked her to participate in the Miss Greater Syracuse pageant. Initially hesitant to enter the competition, Williams decided to compete, winning easily. She went on to be crowned Miss New York in 1983.
On September 17, 1983, six months after entering her first beauty pageant, Williams made history when she was crowned the first African-American Miss America. Her prize included a $25,000 scholarship, as well as instant fame and a variety of product endorsements. As she came to the end of her year-long reign in July of 1984, Williams found herself in the midst of a scandal. The photos Chiapel took during Williams's freshman year, which the beauty queen had not authorized for publication, were plastered on the pages of Penthouse magazine. Horrified, the Miss America pageant board asked Williams to resign her post.
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