Born on March 18, 1963, Vanessa Lynn Williams has a much storied career. After her stint as Miss America in 1983 was abruptly cut short by scandal, she had a successful career as a singer and actress.
Born in Tarrytown, New York, Williams became the first African-American to become Miss America in 1983. Ten months into her reign, nude photos of her taken before her reign surfaced, and eventually found their way to Penthouse magazine. She was forced to resign her title the following year, with the title going to first runner-up Suzette Charles. She initially filed a lawsuit against photographer Tom Chiapel and Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, but later dropped the suit, saying that “the best revenge is success.”
Williams then became known as a singer. She released her first album, The Right Stuff, in 1988. Her third single, “Dreamin’”, broke into the Billboard Hot 100, and she earned three Grammy nominations the following year. She went on to produce six more albums, which cemented her reputation as a renowned R&B and soul singer.
She later went into acting, first in to film, first appearing in Under the Gun in 1988, and gaining prominence in the 1997 drama Soul Food, where she won the the NAACP Image Award for Best Actress. She eventually moved on gaining theater, when she debuted on the Broadway production of Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1994. She earned a Tony nomination for her performance in Into the Woods, staged in 2002.
But it was in television where she collected the most credits as an actress, first appearing as herself in an episode of The Love Boat in 1984. She has appeared in multiple television movies and miniseries, as well as several guest appearances in shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saturday Night Live, Deep Space Nine, Ally McBeal and Boomtown. Her most notable starring role is in the successful series Ugly Betty, where she plays the scheming magazine editor Wilhelmina Slater; her performance was nominated twice for an Emmy award for Best Comedy Supporting Actress. When the series ended in 2010, she appeared in ABC’s Desperate Housewives as Renee Perry. She was also seen in Hannah Montana: The Movie in 2009.
- When she was born, her parents said this was the next Miss America and sure enough she was the first black woman to be crowned as Miss America.
- She has three children with her first husband, Ramon Hervey. They divorced, she remarried and had one child with Rick Fox. The couple divorced in 2005.
- Her parents both taught music.
- In 2002, she was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance in the revival of "Into The Woods."
- She has done commercials for Crest and Radio Shack, in addition to being the spokesperson for Proactive Solution (Acne Medication).
- Her brother is Chris Williams.
- In 2003, she was given the honor of singing the national anthem for Arnold Schwarzenegger's inauguration as Governor of California.
2008: Image Awards - Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for: "Ugly Betty"
2007: Image Awards - Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for: "Ugly Betty"
2007: Satellite Awards - Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television for: "Ugly Betty"
2007: Teen Choice Award - Choice TV: Villain for: "Ugly Betty"
2003: Golden Satellite Award - Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television for: Keep the Faith, Baby
1998: Image Awards - Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture for: Soul Food
2010-2011: Desperate Housewives (TV series) - Renee Perry
2006-2010: Ugly Betty (TV series) - Wilhelmina Slater
2009: Hannah Montana: The Movie - Vita
2007-2008: Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies (TV series) - Mama Mirabelle
2007: And Then Came Love - Juile
2007: The Beautiful World of Ugly Betty (TV movie) - Narrator/Wilhelmina Slater
2006: My Brother - L'Tisha Morton
2006: South Beach (TV series) - Elizabeth Bauer
2004: Johnson Family Vacation - Dorothy Johnson
2004: Beck and Call (TV short) - Zoe
2003: Boomtown (TV series) - Detective Katherine Pierce
2002: Ally McBeal (TV series) - Sheila Hunt
2002: Keep the Faith, Baby (TV movie) - Hazel Scott
2001: Santa, Baby! (TV movie) - Alicia (voice)
2001: WW 3 (TV movie) - M.J. Blake
2000: A Diva's Christmas Carol (TV movie) - Ebony Scrooge
2000: Shaft - Carmen Vasquez
2000: Don Quixote (TV movie) - Dulcinea/Aldonza
2000: The Courage to Love (TV movie) - Mother Henriette Delille
2000: Style World (TV series) - Host
1999: Light It Up - Audrey McDonald
1999: The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland - Queen of Trash
1999: L.A. Doctors (TV series) - Dr. Leanne Barrows
1998: Futuresport (TV movie) - Alex Torres
1998: Dance with Me - Ruby Sinclair
1997: Soul Food - Teri
1997: Hoodlum - Francine Hughes
1997: The Odyssey (TV movie) - Calypso
1996: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (TV series) - Arandis
1996: Eraser - Lee Cullen
1995: Bye Bye Birdie (TV movie) - Rose Alvarez
1995: Nothing Lasts Forever (TV movie) - Dr. Kathy 'Kat' Hunter
1995: Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (TV series) - Beauty
1994: Score with Chicks (video)
1992: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (TV series) - Danny Mitchell
1992: The Jacksons: An American Dream (TV movie) - Suzanne de Passe
1992: Stompin' at the Savoy (TV movie) - Pauline
1991: Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man - Lulu Daniels
1991: Another You - Gloria
1990: Perry Mason: The Case of the Silenced Singer (TV movie) - Terri Knight
1990: The Kid Who Loved Christmas (TV movie) - Lynette Parks
1989: Full Exposure: The Sex Tapes Scandal (TV movie) - Valentine Hayward
1988: Under the Gun - Samantha Richards
1987: The Pick-up Artist - Rae, Girl with Dog
1986: The Love Boat (TV series) - Pearl
1986: T.J. Hooker (TV series) - Pat Williamson
1986: The Redd Foxx Show (TV series) - Jessica
1986: He's the Mayor (TV series)
1984: Partners in Crime (TV series) - Roselle Robins