Vanessa Williams will be returning to the Miss America 2016 pageant three decades after her nude photo scandal.
Williams, the first African-American Miss America, won the title in 1984, but later resigned from her position after Penthouse magazine published several nude photos of her from several years earlier, Gulf News Fashion reports.
On Tuesday, more than 30 years later, the Miss America Organization, Dick Clark Productions, and the ABC television network announced that they would be bringing back the award-winning actress and singer to be a judge for the 2016 Miss America pageant. ABC described Williams as “one of the most respected and multi-faceted performers in entertainment today,” according to the Orlando Sentinel.
— Dick Clark Prod (@dclarkp) September 8, 2015
Sam Haskell, executive chairman and CEO of the Miss America Organization, said he was friends with Vanessa Williams long before the nude photo scandal, and has been trying to bring her back to the pageant for nearly a decade.
“I have been friends with Vanessa for 32 years,” he said. “When the photos were published, there were people urging her to fight, but close supporters knew if she lost that fight that she would be completely removed from the history books. Instead of pursuing what would surely have been a long and stressful legal battle, Vanessa decided to resign and focus on her career. Vanessa and her family were hurt during the aftermath of the resignation, and that saddened me.”
“Vanessa’s career speaks for itself, with all the success that she has had. When I became chairman of Miss America, one of the first calls I made was to Vanessa, to try to find a way to get her to come back. Her return as a huge success is a way for us all to move forward and put the past behind us. It’s truly an honor to welcome her back to the Miss America Pageant.”
Despite the scandal, Vanessa Williams went on to have a very lucrative career. Since her 1988 debut album The Right Stuff, she has sold more than seven million records worldwide. Her work has earned her four Emmy nominations, 17 Grammy nominations, a Tony nomination, three Screen Actors Guild award nominations, seven NAACP Image Awards, and a Golden Globe, Grammy, and an Oscar for Best Original Song for “Colors of the Wind,” from the Disney film Pocahontas, CTV News reports. She also landed starring roles in the television shows Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives.
— Mike Mahan (@MikeMahan) September 8, 2015
Williams will serve as the head judge for the pageant, joining fellow celebrity judges Brett Eldredge, Taya Kyle, Danica McKellar, Kevin O’Leary, Amy Purdy, and Zendaya. Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke-Charvet will serve as the hosts, while Nick Jonas will be music curator.
[Photo by Rob Kim / Getty Images]