Vanessa Williams

  • Singer and actress, born in The Bronx, New York in 1963.
  • Her parents were both music teachers, and she studied dance, French Horn, piano and violin when she was young. She attended Syracuse University on a scholarship, and in 1981 she joined the drama department as a musical theater major. She remained there until she was crowned Miss America in September 1983. Williams won the talent portion of the pageant by singing Happy Days Are Here Again. She relinquished her title when nude photographs of her were published in Penthouse magazine during the summer of 1984. In 2008, Syracuse University granted her a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree based on her substantial career on stage and screen.
  • Despite the scandal, Williams remained in the public eye with roles in films and television. In 1988, she signed a recording deal, and her debut album was released – The Right Stuff. It was well received, and sold over half a million copies in the U.S., earning her 3 Grammy nominations and a NAACP Image Award. Her highest charting single from the album was Dreamin, which reached #1 on the R&B chart and #8 on the Hot 100 chart.
  • Her next album was her most successful. Released in 1991, The Comfort Zone was certified 3x Platinum, and it topped the R&B album chart. The single Save the Best For Last became her signature song, reaching #1 on the Hot 100 chart. It was a late addition to the album, as it was offered to several other artists first, and Williams became interested only because another song planned for the record had to be replaced.
  • Williams had 2 songs that were part of soundtracks that were huge hits for her. In 1993, the soundtrack for the TV show Beverly Hills 90210 was released, and it included her duet with Brian McKnight, Love Is. The song peaked at #3 on the Hot 100, and at #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. In 1995, the soundtrack for the Disney film Pocahontas was released – it included the theme song Colors of the Wind, which peaked at #4 on the Hot 100 chart. The song won an Oscar, Golden Globe, and Grammy Award for composer Alan Menken. Personal note – I was a big fan of the Disney animated movies in the 90s (prime time for my kids growing up), and my opinion is that Pocahontas has the best music, mostly because of its big orchestral sound.
  • Williams released her third studio album, The Sweetest Days, in 1994. It was her final platinum album, and the title track was her last top 40 hit, reaching #18.
  • Five more albums were released between 1996 and 2009 – 2 of these albums were Christmas albums. Two singles that reached the top 10 of the Adult Contemporary chart were Where Do We Go From Here? and Oh How the Years Go By. 
  • Williams is highly successful as an actress. She was nominated for 3 Emmy Awards for her role in the TV show Ugly Betty, and she had a starring role in the final 2 seasons of Desperate Housewives. She has performed in 20 films, and 44 television projects. Additionally, she has performed on stage in 10 different shows, and received a Tony nomination for her role as the Witch in Into The Woods in 2002.
  • I have a lot of respect for Vanessa Williams. The Miss America scandal would have broken most careers, but she dusted herself off and became a big success because of her many talents. Her music won’t get her into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but she won me over with Colors of the Wind. Here’s the video of the song.

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