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.

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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.