Vanessa WilliamsSinger / Actor / Beauty Contestant
Born: 18 March 1963
Birthplace: Millwood, New York
Best known as: The first African-American to become Miss America
Light-eyed, sultry Vanessa Williams was the first African-American to win the Miss America crown (1983). She was forced to turn in her tiara after Penthouse magazine published nude photos of her, but she bounced back with a successful career as a singer, starting with the 1988 dance-pop album The Right Stuff and including the album The Comfort Zone (1991) and the song "Colors of the Wind" from the Disney feature Pocahontas (1995). The 1990s saw Williams branch out into Broadway and make a respectable go at the movies, playing semi-tough babes opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Eraser (1996) and Samuel L. Jackson in Shaft (2000). She has since had a successful career in television, including guest shots, a 2003 series (Boomtown) and an Emmy-nominated role in Ugly Betty (2007, starring America Ferrera).
Extra credit: Williams attended Syracuse University... She is sometimes referred to as Vanessa L. Williams and is no relation to Vanessa Williams, the actress with the same name who appeared on the TV show Melrose Place. By coincidence, the former Miss America starred in the movie Soul Food (1997) while the second Ms. Williams starred in the cable TV series of the same name... In 1999 she married NBA player Rick Fox.
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