(born March 18, 1963) is an American singer, actress, producer and former fashion model. In 1983, she became the first African-American woman crowned Miss America, scandal arose when Penthouse magazine bought and published nude photographs of her. She relinquished her title early and was succeeded by the first runner-up, Suzette Charles of New Jersey. She rebounded by launching a career as an entertainer, earning multiple Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award nominations.
Entertainer Vanessa Lynn Williams was born on March 18, 1963, in Bronx, New York. Williams’s parents, Milton and Helen, both worked as music educators. They moved Vanessa and her brother, Chris, to the upscale suburbs of Millwood, New York, when Vanessa was 12 months old, so they could take jobs as music teachers in Millwood’s public school system.
Music was an integral part of Vanessa’s early life, and by the time she was 10, she had devoted herself almost completely to music and dance. With plans to become the first African-American Rockette, she studied classical and jazz dance as well as theatre arts. She also excelled at French horn, piano, and violin. A natural performer and outgoing student, Williams was a high achiever who landed the Presidential Scholarship for Drama at graduation and gained entry into the Carnegie Mellon University theater arts program in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Although she was only one of 12 students accepted into Carnegie Mellon’s program that year, Williams decided to attend Syracuse University in upstate New York instead.
During the summer of her freshman year at Syracuse, 19-year-old Williams took a job as a receptionist and makeup artist for local photographer Tom Chiapel. Chiapel frequently arranged photo-shoots involving female nudes, and when the photographer expressed interest in using Williams as a model, she took the chance. Williams sat for two sessions with Chiapel, followed by a third session with another photographer in New York City. Dissatisfied with the provocative nature of the third photos, she asked for the negatives and thought they had been destroyed. Read More