Touching Scene Unfolds as Pageant CEO Apologizes to the Star
Williams had made history, both as the first African-American to win the title, and for being asked to step down
For the first time since she was crowned Miss America 1984, Vanessa Williams made history when she returned to the Miss America Pageant stage after 32 years. The former titleholder was met with enthusiastic applause as she stepped on-stage to perform before beginning her duties as the evening’s head judge.
Williams had made history before, when she became the first African American to win the crown. Later in her reign, pageant officials asked her to step down as the titleholder after it was revealed that she had posed nude for photographs which were published in Penthouse magazine without her permission. She was replaced by her first runner-up, Suzette Charles, Miss New Jersey, who stepped in to complete the remainder of the year of service as Miss America 1984.
In a poignant moment, Sam Haskell III, Executive Chairman and CEO of the Miss America Organization, stood by Vanessa’s side and apologized to the former titleholder and to her mother Helen who was seated in the audience, for the pageant’s treatment of her during her reign. “I want to apologize for anything that was said or done,” Haskell said. “Vanessa: Welcome back!”
Adding that none of the current members of the pageant’s leadership had been involved with organization at the time of her dismissal, Haskell pointed out that he and Williams had been friends for decades.
William’s mother, Helen Williams, could not hold back her tears as Haskell apologized to the pair. Williams and her mother co-authored Vanessa’s autobiography, “You Have No Idea,” which was a New York Times Best Seller in 2012.
From the audience’s reaction, it was clear that Miss Williams is admired and loved by the pageant’s followers…and that Haskell’s from-the-heart remarks met with their approval.
Since her debut release with, “The Right Stuff,” in 1988, Vanessa Williams has sold over 7 million records worldwide, and has scored numerous #1 and Top 10 hits on various Billboard Album and Singles charts: Pop, Dance, R&B, Adult Contemporary, Holiday, Latin, Gospel and Jazz. >>More about Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams
Vanessa’s critically acclaimed work in film, television, recordings and the Broadway stage has been recognized by every major industry award affiliation including 4 Emmy nominations, 17 Grammy nominations (of which 11 were for her individually), a Tony nomination, 3 SAG award nominations, 7 NAACP Image Awards, 3 Satellite Awards and ultimately a Golden Globe, Grammy and an Oscar for Best Original Song for her platinum single “Colors of the Wind,” from the Disney film Pocahontas.
Her autobiography, “You Have No Idea,” co-written with her mother Helen Williams, was a New York Times Best Seller in 2012. Vanessa returned to Broadway in the spring of 2014 for a special limited engagement in the musical “After Midnight.” She also co-starred with Cicely Tyson and Cuba Gooding, Jr in “The Trip To Bountiful,” which was the #1 play of the 2013 Broadway season.