Vanessa Lynn Williams (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, but a 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. Williams rebounded by launching a career as an entertainer, earning multiple Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award nominations. She is arguably the most successful Miss America winner in the field of entertainment.
Williams released her debut album The Right Stuff in 1988, which spawned the hits “The Right Stuff”, a No. 1 on Hot Dance Songs, and “Dreamin'” a No. 1 on R&B and No. 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 No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Williams’s first major film role was as the female lead in the 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. From 2010 to 2012, she starred in Desperate Housewives as spoiled rich woman Renee Perry. She starred in the supernatural drama series 666 Park Avenue in 2012.