Vanessa Williams Gets An Apology From Miss America Pageant 32 Years Later

September 15, 2015 | By Garrett Montgomery More

Vanessa Williams accepted an apology that was long overdue by Miss America organization officials. Last night, Williams returned to the pageant where she received a formal apology from Sam Haskell for losing her crown as the first African-American Miss America after her nude pictures were published in Penthouse magazine against her will.

vanessa williams

Here she is, Miss America 1984: Vanessa Williams! This time, it is for real. Sunday night, Miss America’s 95th pageant took place at the Boardwalk Hall Arena in Atlantic City, New Jersey. While Miss Georgia Betty Cantrell was crowned the queen, Vanessa Williams is the one making headlines.

After 30 years, the “Am I Too Much?” singer returned to the Miss America event where CEO Sam Haskell III apologized for stripping her of the crown.

Here is what happened 30 years ago. In 1983, Vanessa Williams, who was majoring in Musical Theatre Arts at Syracuse University, won Miss Syracuse and went on to win the Miss New York title. That same year, she was given the Miss America crown at the national pageant in Atlantic City and, therefore, became the first African-American Miss America.

About ten months into her reign, Williams was warned that someone was about to sell naked pictures she had taken before she won the title. So said, so done, a series of photos she took as she worked as an assistant and makeup artist for New York photographer Tom Chiapel were sold to Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse, who made $14 million with them.

Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy, turned down the photos, saying:

“Vanessa Williams is a beautiful woman. There was never any question of our interest in the photos. But they clearly weren’t authorized and because they would be the source of considerable embarrassment to her, we decided not to publish them. We were also mindful that she was the first black Miss America.”

The scandal pushed Miss America Pageant officials to pressure Williams to resign and give her title to the first runner-up, Suzette Charles, also an African-American. After giving back her privileges, Williams went on to sell seven million records worldwide, appeared in countless movies, TV shows and Broadway plays.

Williams came back as a judge for the organization and was offered the following apology:

“I have been a close friend to this beautiful and talented lady for 32 years. You have lived your life in grace and dignity and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned.Though none of us currently in the organization were involved then, on behalf of today’s organization, I want to apologize to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams. I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be.”

The 666 Park Avenue actress replied by saying:

“I want to thank everyone who has come up to me over the past 32 years and said, ‘You’ll always be MY Miss America.I got a chance to be on the stage and represent what I represented back in 1984. Thank you so much for being so welcoming to me.”

Betty Cantrell has her own “mini-scandal” brewing, she said during the event that Tom Brady is a cheater, and he should have been suspended for taking part in DeflateGate.

#tbt #hesgotthelook #shoot Love the '80s! #therightstuff

A post shared by Vanessa Williams (@vanessawilliamsofficial) on

#fbf #dancepartyusa #promo #workingmom 1988 #therightstuff My daughter Melanie on the lap

A post shared by Vanessa Williams (@vanessawilliamsofficial) on

Buffalo? Yes, Buffalo! @TheBuffaloNews (Link on Twitter).

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Last day on the set @RoyalPainsUSA! Bring on the weekend!

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#flashbackfriday Angelic…and then life happens

A post shared by Vanessa Williams (@vanessawilliamsofficial) on

#FBF Before any kids #BarbadosVacation

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Category: TV

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