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Vanessa Lynn Williams (1963)

Type :  

  Summary  

Vanessa Lynn Williams is an American pop-R&B recording artist, producer, dancer, model, actress and showgirl. In 1983, she became the first woman of African-American descent to be crowned Miss America, but a scandal generated by her having posed for nude photographs published in Penthouse magazine caused her to relinquish her title early and she was succeeded by the first runner-up, Suzette Charles of New Jersey – who was also African-American. Williams rebounded by launching a career as an entertainer, earning multiple Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award nominations.

Williams released her debut album The Right Stuff in 1988, which spawned the hits "The Right Stuff" , a #1 on Hot Dance Songs, and "Dreamin'" a #1 on R&B and #8 on Billboard Hot 100. Her second studio album The Comfort Zone in 1991 topped the Billboard R&B Album Chart, which spawned the Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit "Save the Best for Last".

In 1994 she debuted on Broadway in the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman. In 1995 she recorded "Colors of the Wind", the Oscar-winner for Best Original Song from the Disney animated feature film Pocahontas , which reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Williams's first film acting role was as the star of the feature film Eraser in 1996. She also starred in the movies Soul Food, Dance with Me, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, Shaft and Johnson Family Vacation.

From 2006 to 2010 she played the role of the scheming, self-absorbed diva and former supermodel Wilhelmina Slater in the ABC comedy series Ugly Betty, for which she received three Emmy Awards nominations. In 2009, Williams released her eighth studio album, The Real Thing. In 2010 she joined the ensemble cast of the series Desperate Housewives as spoiled rich woman Renee Perry.

Along with Mario Frangoulis, she was the main host of the opening ceremony of the 2011 Special Olympics, held in Athens.

  Biography  

 early life
Williams was born in Tarrytown, New York, the daughter of music teachers Helen L. (née Tinch) and Milton Augustine Williams, Jr. According to DNA tests, Vanessa is of African American, Welsh, and Native American descent. Williams and her younger brother Chris, who is also an actor, grew up in Millwood, a predominantly white middle-class suburban area. Prophetically, her parents put "Here she is: Miss America" on her birth announcement.

 Education
Williams studied piano and French horn growing up, but was most interested in singing and songwriting. She received a scholarship and attended Syracuse University as a Musical Theatre Arts major from 1981 to 1983. She interrupted her education at Syracuse during her sophomore year to fulfill her duties as Miss America, and subsequently left the university to focus on her entertainment career. Twenty-five years later, she graduated from Syracuse by earning her remaining college credits through her life experience. Williams delivered the convocation address on May 10, 2008, to 480 other students in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. She stated:

 music career
Williams released her debut album, The Right Stuff in 1988. The first single, "The Right Stuff", found success on the R&B chart, while the second single "He's Got the Look" found similar success on the same chart. The third single, "Dreamin'", was a pop hit, becoming Williams' first top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #8, and her first number one single on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The album reached gold status in the U.S. and earned her three Grammy Award nominations, including one for Best New Artist.

Her second album The Comfort Zone became the biggest success in her music career. The lead single "Running Back to You" reached top twenty on the Hot 100, and the top position of Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart on October 5, 1991. Other singles included "The Comfort Zone" (#2 R&B), "Just for Tonight" (#26 Pop), a cover of The Isley Brothers' "Work to Do" (#3 R&B), and the club-only hit "Freedom Dance (Get Free!)." The most successful single from the album, as well as her biggest hit to date, is "Save the Best for Last". It reached #1 in the United States, where it remained for five weeks, as well as #1 in Australia, the Netherlands, and Canada, and was in the top 5 in Japan, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The album sold 2.2 million copies in the U.S. at its time of release and has since been certified triple platinum in the United States by the RIAA, gold in Canada by the CRIA, and platinum in the United Kingdom by the BPI. The Comfort Zone earned Williams five Grammy Award nominations.

The Sweetest Days, her third album, was released in 1994 to highly-favorable reviews. The album saw Williams branch out and sample other styles of music that included jazz, hip hop, rock, and Latin-themed recordings such as "Betcha Never" and "You Can't Run", both written and produced by Babyface. Other singles from the album included the adult-contemporary and dance hit "The Way That You Love" and the title track "The Sweetest Days". The album was certified platinum in the U.S. by the RIAA and earned her two Grammy Award nominations.

Other releases include two Christmas albums, Star Bright, released in 1996, and Silver & Gold in 2004; Next in 1997, and Everlasting Love in 2005, along with a greatest-hits compilation released in 1998, and a host of other compilations released over the years.

Notable chart performances from subsequent albums, motion picture and television soundtracks have included the songs "Love Is", which was a duet with Brian McKnight, the Golden Globe- and Academy Award-winning "Colors of the Wind", "Where Do We Go from Here?", and "Oh How the Years Go By". In total, Williams has sold more than six million records and has received 15 Grammy Award nominations.

In May 2009 she performed two concerts at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City to sold out crowds.

On June 2, 2009, she released her 8th studio album on Concord Records titled The Real Thing. It features songs written and/or produced by Babyface, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Bebel Gilberto, and Rex Rideout. Williams described the album as "a hybrid of samba, bossa nova, some salsa and also some pop and R&B". The title song "The Real Thing", the fourth single released from the album, peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart.

 acting career
 Theatrical roles
Williams broadened her ascendant music career into a theatrical role when she was cast in the Broadway production of Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1994. She was also featured in the Tony-nominated and Drama Desk Award nominated performance as the Witch in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods in a revival of the show in 2002, which included songs revised for her.

Other notable theatrical roles include her performances in Carmen Jones at the Kennedy Center, the off-Broadway productions of One Man Band and Checkmates, and the New York City Center's Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert, St. Louis Woman.

In 2010, Williams starred in a new Broadway musical revue along with Barbara Cook, Tom Wopat and Leslie Kritzer entitled, Sondheim on Sondheim, a look at Stephen Sondheim through his music, film and videotaped interviews. Directed by James Lapine, Sondheim ran from March 19 to June 13 at Studio 54 in New York City.

 Feature film roles
Williams has appeared in several feature films. Her most prominent role was in the 1997 film Soul Food, for which she won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. Williams appeared in the 1991 cult classic film Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. She also co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Eraser and opposite Chayanne in Dance with Me.

In 2007, Williams returned to the big screen starring in two independent motion pictures. The first being My Brother, for which she won Best Actress honors at the Harlem International Film Festival, the African-American Women in Cinema Film Festival and at the Santa Barbara African Heritage Film Festival, and the second being And Then Came Love. In 2009, she starred alongside Miley Cyrus in Hannah Montana: The Movie.

She stars on upcoming movie The Marriage Counselor.

 Television
Williams' first television appearance was on a 1984 episode of The Love Boat, playing herself. She subsequently made guest appearances on a number of shows, including T.J. Hooker, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saturday Night Live, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, LateLine, MADtv, Ally McBeal and Boomtown.

Her appearances in television movies and miniseries include Perry Mason: The Case of the Silenced Singer and The Jacksons: An American Dream as Suzanne de Passe. In 1995, Williams starred as Rose Alvares in a television version of Bye Bye Birdie, a Broadway musical from the 1950s. She played the nymph Calypso in the 1997 Hallmark Entertainment miniseries The Odyssey, starring Armand Assante. She appeared as Ebony Scrooge the Ebenezer Scrooge character in an update of Charles Dickens' story A Christmas Carol called A Diva's Christmas Carol. In 2001, Williams starred in the Lifetime cable movie about the life of Henriette DeLille, The Courage to Love. In 2003, Williams read the narrative of Tempie Herndon Durham from the WPA slave narratives in the HBO documentary Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives. In early 2006 she starred in the short lived UPN drama South Beach.

In 2006, Williams received considerable media attention for her comic/villainess role as former model/magazine creative director turned editor-in-chief Wilhelmina Slater in the ABC comedy series Ugly Betty. Her performance on the series resulted in a nomination for outstanding supporting actress at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards. She also provides the voice for the main character in the PBS Kids version of Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies. In 2008 and 2009, she was again nominated for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for Ugly Betty.


Williams joined the cast of Desperate Housewives for the seventh season. Williams portrays Renee Perry, an old college friend/rival of Lynette Scavo , as the new vixen on Wisteria Lane, moving into the late Edie Britt's old house.

 Other media appearances
Williams has appeared in advertisements for RadioShack. She is a spokesmodel for Proactiv Solution, and was the first African-American spokesmodel for L'Oréal cosmetics in the late 1990s. Her other media appearances include endorsing Crest Rejuvenating Effects Toothpaste, endorsing Disneyland and Universal Studios in a VisitCalifornia advertisement for British and Irish television in 2008, and hosting the 6th Annual 2008 TV Land Awards show.

She appeared on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in 2000 as a contestant, and once again on 10 August 2009 as a celebrity guest during the show's 10th anniversary prime-time special editions, winning $50,000 for her charity.

 Name conflict
Williams is most often referenced and publicly recognized simply as "Vanessa Williams". There is, however, occasional confusion with similarly named actress Vanessa A. Williams, who is just two months younger.

It has been reported that Williams first became aware of Vanessa A. in the 1980s when her New York University registrar told her that another, similarly aged student with the same name and from the same state had applied. When Williams appeared as Miss America in a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Vanessa A. accidentally received her check for the appearance, which she returned.

In the area of acting, the two ran into name conflict when Screen Actors Guild rules prohibited duplicate stage naming. Vanessa A. had registered the name "Vanessa Williams" first, so as a compromise, Williams was occasionally credited as "Vanessa L. Williams" in acting credits. To compound the confusion, both actresses starred in versions of the drama Soul Food . The Screen Actors Guild eventually took the issue to arbitration and decided that both actresses could use the professional name "Vanessa Williams". Today, Williams' prominence has led to a more prevailing association with the stage name "Vanessa Williams", so much so that it has widely become solely attributable to her. She is credited as such in the American television series Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives. Williams is also the owner of the internet domain name vanessawilliams.com. Today, the younger Vanessa Williams is most often publicly and professionally referenced as "Vanessa A. Williams".

 personal life
She has been married twice. Her first marriage, to her then-manager Ramon Hervey II, was from 1987 to 1997. They have three children, Melanie born in 1987, Jillian - 1989, and Devin - 1993.

Her second marriage was to former NBA basketball player Rick Fox. They married in September 1999 and have a daughter, Sasha, born in May 2000. After The National Enquirer published pictures of Fox kissing and hugging another woman in mid-2004, Fox's representative announced that the couple had been "headed toward divorce" for over a year. A few months later in August 2004, Fox filed for divorce. Fox acted alongside Williams in two episodes during the second season of Ugly Betty, playing the role of Dwayne, Wilhelmina's sexy bodyguard.

During an interview with Barbara Walters which aired on February 24, 2008, Williams not only admitted to using Botox but also called it "a miracle drug, no cutting, nothing, and I love it. But I also want to act so I don't do it to freeze my face."

Williams is Roman Catholic.

Show more

  Played TV shows  

  Albums 

  Tracks  

Name Duration Released
Breathless 04:50 02/2009
October Sky 04:28 02/2009
I Fell In 04:47 02/2009
Close To You 04:36 02/2009
Lazy Afternoon 04:56 02/2009
The Real Thing 05:12 02/2009
Just Friends 03:27 02/2009
Loving You 03:33 02/2009
If There Were No Song 04:29 02/2009
Hello Like Before 04:28 02/2009
Come on Strong 02:39 02/2009
With You I'm Born Again 03:53 2005
Everlasting Love 04:28 2005
First Time Ever I Saw Your Face 05:42 2005
Let's Love 04:56 2005
Harvest for the World 05:21 2005
Show and Tell 04:11 2005
I'll Be Good to You 04:29 2005
Midnight Blue 03:47 2005
One Less Bell to Answer 04:06 2005
Never Can Say Goodbye 05:03 2005
You Are Everything 03:45 2005
Tuning 00:18 2005
Send One Your Love 03:41 2005
Crazy 'Bout You 04:34 1997
First Thing On Your Mind 03:57 1997
Oh How the Years Go By 00:00 1997
And My Heart Goes 04:23 1997
And If I Ever 04:06 1997
Happiness 04:27 1997
Start Again 03:56 1997
Who Were You Thinkin' 'Bout? 04:06 1997
Surrender 04:55 1997
The Easiest Thing 04:34 1997
Someone Like You 04:53 1997
Lost Without You 04:40 1997
Do You Hear What I Hear/The Little Drummer Boy 05:02 1996
What Child Is This? 03:52 1996
The First Noel 04:28 1996
Angels We Have Heard on High 04:58 1996
Sleep Well, Little Children 00:40 1996
I Wonder as I Wander 04:40 1996
Baby, It's Cold Outside 05:51 1996
I'll Be Home for Christmas 03:32 1996
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 05:34 1996
Go Tell It on the Mountain/Mary Had a Baby 05:48 1996
Star Bright 03:37 1996
Gracious Good Shepherd 04:15 1996
You Don't Have to Say You'reSorry 04:10 1994
Higher Ground 04:19 1994
The Way That You Love 04:48 1994
Long Way Home 04:18 1994
Intro-lude 00:55 1994
Constantly 05:04 1994
Moonlight Over Paris 05:07 1994
You Can't Run 04:27 1994
Sister Moon 05:28 1994
Ellamental 06:06 1994
Love Like This 05:10 1992
Just for Tonight 04:28 20/08/1991
Work to Do 04:36 20/08/1991
Freedom Dance (Get Free!) 04:14 20/08/1991
Running Back to You 04:39 20/08/1991
2 of a Kind 05:16 20/08/1991
The Comfort Zone 03:59 20/08/1991
Strangers Eyes 06:16 20/08/1991
What Will I Tell My Heart? 04:17 20/08/1991
Save the Best for Last 03:38 20/08/1991
Goodbye 04:21 20/08/1991
Better off Now 04:14 20/08/1991
Still in Love 05:22 20/08/1991
One Reason 04:52 20/08/1991
You Gotta Go 06:21 20/08/1991
I'll Be the One 04:05 06/06/1988
(He's Got) The Look 04:11 06/06/1988
If You Really Love Him 05:24 06/06/1988
Dreamin' 05:25 06/06/1988
Whatever Happens 03:26 06/06/1988
Be a Man 04:57 06/06/1988
Can This Be Real? 05:15 06/06/1988
The Right Stuff 04:18 06/06/1988
Am I Too Much? 04:08 06/06/1988
Darlin' I 04:07 06/06/1988
Security 04:38 06/06/1988
Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly 04:57
Betcha Never 03:55
The Sweetest Days 03:31
My Flame 05:05
Where Do We Go from Here? 04:19
Colors of the Wind 04:18
Love Is 04:45
Winter Weather 03:01
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas 04:01
Silent Night 04:28
Christmas Is 04:47
Mary's Little Boy Child 06:33
The Holly and the Ivy 03:33
Joy to the World 04:52
December Lullaby 04:34
Silver and Gold 03:29
Prelude: I Dream a World 01:20
Rise Up, Shepherd and Follow 04:53
Merry Christmas, Darling 03:50
The Little Drummer Boy 05:13

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  Sources

Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Vanessa Lynn Williams", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.