*Emmy-nominated Vanessa Williams opened up to Page Six about how she was able to bounce back from the public backlash following the Miss America scandal in the ’80s.
Williams became the first Black woman to win the crown in 1983 but when unauthorized nude photos were published of her by Penthouse Magazine, she was forced to resign her title. Per The Root, in 2016, the executive chairman of the Miss America pageant issued a public apology to the Hollywood veteran.
“I think I was really centered in knowing I know who I am and I’ll get there, and once the dust settles, you’ll see,” Williams explained in reference to the nude photos. “And also distancing [myself] from the two opposite symbols of Miss America and a scandalized beauty queen and me being a normal kid in the middle who was a junior in college.”
Williams said watching her three daughters grow up has allowed her to fully embrace her own journey into womanhood.
“Having kids and seeing my kids at the age of 20…and realizing not only was I famous but all the stuff I had to manage and accept and fight through,” she noted.
Earlier this year, Williams said the Black community was her toughest critics after she was crowned Miss America.
Speaking on A&E’s The Table is Ours podcast, Williams said “I was not seen as a 20-year-old, who is a junior in college. I was seen as a symbol but also seen as a Black woman, and also seen as someone who was supposed to represent the American beauty. And there are a lot of folks that did not believe that having brown skin and being a Black woman represented the Miss America ideal,” she said.
“I had death threats. I had sharpshooters when I did my homecoming parade. There were sharpshooters on the top of roofs of my hometown, just because of the threat, the threats that were, you know, against me because of who I was.”
Williams said some of the threats came from “my own people.”
“The people that are crazy and want to kill you and your family that’s one thing but it was like my own, my own people,” she said.
“Not only was I getting attacked from White folks saying she doesn’t represent us, but some Black folks saying, oh they only picked her cause she’s light, oh they only picked cause she’s light, light eyes and kind of dismissed my talent, my intellect, and my achievement. So that was probably more hurtful,” Williams continued.
“It was tough to take that criticism,” she added.