Vanessa Williams’ reign as Miss America was short. She was only Miss America for 10 months when she won the crown in 1983, until nude photos of her were released without her permission in Penthouse Magazine in 1984 and the Miss America organization forced her into resigning. Over 30 years later, they have apologized.
According to the Independent, over 30 years later, she returned to the Miss America contest as a judge and helped select the current Miss America, a 21-year-old from Georgia named Betty Cantrell. At the pageant, the executive chairman of Miss America, Sam Haskell, invited Williams onto the stage and offered an apology on behalf of the current Miss America organization.
“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 organisation were involved then, on behalf of today’s organisation I want to apologise to you and to your mother, Ms. Helen Williams. I want to apologise for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be.”
— Variety (@Variety) September 14, 2015
After she was asked to resign her crown as Miss America following the scandal, Vanessa Williams had many supporters who felt like she was unfairly treated by the organization. When the ceremony was over, she spoke with journalists about her experience following her resignation.
“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.”
Despite being basically stripped of her title of Miss America so long ago, Vanessa Williams has had a much better career than some Miss America winners who were allowed to keep their crowns, reports BBC News. Since the pageant, she has been able to foster a career in music, with hits like “Save the Best For Last,” and winning a Golden Globe for her recording of Disney’s “Colors of the Wind.” The unfairly disgraced Miss America winner also was able to have a career in acting, starring both on the big screen in movies like Eraser with Arnold Schwarzenegger and, more recently, on television in shows like Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives.
[Image by Michael Loccisano/ Getty Images]