Before Vanessa Williams was making appearances on the small and big screen, she made history in 1983 after winning Miss America.
“I won [Miss Syracuse], Miss New York State and Miss America all within six months, so I went from my junior year [at Syracuse University] to all of a sudden, I was the first Black Miss America in 1983. And I had death threats because we’re talking 37 years ago,” she said on “The Fat Joe Show.”
“A lot of people don’t like to be confronted with diversity, and I was the symbol of that, so I had to prove that I was smart enough. I was talented enough,” she said.
The actress gave up her crown towards the end of her reign after nude photos of her were leaked. “After being Miss America, there was an issue with some pictures I had done, which did not have a release and they were sold behind my back. Six weeks before I was finishing my year [as Miss America], I resigned,” she said.
But that was just a bump in the road. She made the transition to Hollywood and never looked back since. “I never wanted to be a beauty queen — and, of course, I never wanted to be a scandalized beauty queen. So, I had so much judgment from a very early age against me,” she said. “I heard a lot of noes, and all the people thought I would just disappear. And I thought, ‘Once the dust settles, you’ll get to know who I really am.’ And, that’s how I live my life,” she said.