Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams Headshot

Singer • Actress • Model

Birth Name: Vanessa Lynne Williams

Birth Date: March 18, 1963

Age: 61 years old

Birth Place: Tarrytown, New York

Siblings: Chris Williams

A multi-faceted performer possessing both stunning looks and immense talent, Vanessa Williams found success in nearly every arm of the entertainment industry. Overcoming scandal and the loss of the Miss America title in 1984, due to a nude pictorial in Playboy magazine, Williams' strength of character, grace and talent helped establish her as a sought-after vocalist and actress. As a Grammy-nominated singer, she released eight albums, selling over four million copies worldwide. As an actress, Williams starred on Broadway, television and in feature films. On stage, she turned in a Tony-nominated performance in "Into the Woods;" on the big screen, she starred in numerous films including "Eraser" (1996), "Soul Food" (1997), "Shaft" (2000) and "Johnson Family Vacation" (2004). With a career that spanned two decades, Williams established herself as a leading talent across the board, proving her staying power by returning to television as Wilhelmina Slater on the hit ABC series "Ugly Betty" (2006-2010). She furthered her stature on the small screen after joining the cast of the long-running hit, "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-12), once again proving that Williams was capable of translating her talents to just about any medium.

Born March 18, 1963 in Bronx, NY to parents Milton and Helen Williams, Williams grew up in the Westchester County town of Millwood, NY. Growing up the child of two music teachers, Williams became interested in singing and performance from a young age; she studied piano, French horn, acting and dancing and was involved in her school's concert choir and chorus. While a teenager, she attended New York's prestigious School of Performing Arts and later went on to study musical theater at Syracuse University on a Presidential Scholarship. Leaving college to pursue a career in show business, Williams began to enter beauty pageants. After being crowned Miss New York in 1983, she went on to compete in the 1984 Miss America Pageant. The first black Miss America ever crowned, Williams' win quickly put her in the spotlight and positioned her for a promising career. Unfortunately, her reign did not come without difficulty; though her title brought applause from many, Williams endured racial discrimination and even received threatening hate mail. In July of 1984, her landmark reign came to a seedy end when nude photographs of Williams surfaced - some of them involving lesbian erotica - causing a media frenzy. After the pictures were published in Penthouse magazine without her consent, Williams was forced to give up her crown to her runner-up.

After a few years out of the spotlight to lick her wounds, Williams regained her composure and moved forward with her career. She made her feature film debut with a small role in "The Pick-Up Artist" (1987) and went on to sign a record deal after a catching a music producer's eye while singing backup vocals for George Clinton. In 1988, she released her first album, The Right Stuff. The album put Williams on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, selling over 500,000 copies and going on to earn her three Grammy nominations, including one for Best New Artist. The Right Stuff also earned Williams the NAACP Image Award for Best New Artist in 1989. Pursuing an acting career as well, Williams appeared in "Under the Gun" (1989), "Another You" (1991) and "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man" (1991) alongside Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson. Releasing her second album, The Comfort Zone, in 1991, Williams scored a string of hits from the album including the No. 1 hit, "Save the Best for Last." The album earned Williams three more Grammy nominations and three American Music Award nominations. Scoring another Top Ten hit in 1993, Williams recorded the single "Love Is," a duet with Brian McKnight which appeared on the "Beverly Hills, 90210" soundtrack. The chart-topping single earned Williams and Knight the Billboard Music Award for No. 1 Adult Contemporary Single.

Proving her versatility, Williams made her Broadway debut in 1994 by replacing Chita Rivera in "Kiss of the Spider Woman." Receiving critical acclaim for her performance, she won the 1994 Theatre World Award for Best Debut Performance. That same year, Williams released her third album, The Sweetest Days. Mixing jazz, rock and soul influences, the album allowed Williams to showcase her broad talent as a singer. The following year, she recorded the hit single "Colors of the Wind" for Disney's animated hit feature "Pocahontas" (1995), earning herself a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Williams went on to release her first solo Christmas album, Star Bright, in 1996. Now an established and enormously successful pop singer, Williams' acting career began to take off as well. She landed her first starring role as a government witness opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Eraser" (1996). After the picture's success, she went on to land more leading roles, including portraying one of a trio of daughters in the sleeper hit "Soul Food" (1997), which earned Williams the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture, and exhibiting her dancing skills in the Latin-themed romance, "Dance With Me" (1998).

A continually successful recording artist, Williams released her fourth pop album, Next in 1997. Embarking on her first ever concert tour with the release of the album, Williams co-headlined with R&B singer Luther Vandross on the U.S. leg of the tour before touring solo overseas. In her personal life, Williams began seeing Los Angeles Lakers star Rick Fox. The pair eloped in the Caribbean in 1999 before having a traditional ceremony for family and friends in New York. On film, Williams appeared in the urban high school thriller "Light It Up" (1999), and as one of Samuel L. Jackson's leading ladies in the remake of "Shaft" (2000). Combining her musical and acting talents, she appeared as pop singer Ebony Scrooge in the television movie, "A Diva's Christmas Carol" (2000), which brought a new twist to the Dickens classic. Returning to the stage in 2002, Williams starred in a Debbie Allen-directed production of "Carmen Jones" at the Kennedy Center. She was also cast in the role of the Witch in the Broadway revival of "Into the Woods," which earned Williams a Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical.

Focusing on her career, Williams returned to television, appearing on the short-lived UPN series "South Beach" (2006) before landing the role of conniving fashion magazine editor Wilhelmina Slater on the surprise hit series, "Ugly Betty." Cast against type, Williams was given a chance to shine as a dethroned magazine editor trying to regain control of her empire. The role of the cutthroat Wilhelmina proved instrumental in legitimizing Williams' career as an actress. In mid-2007, she received her first Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, going head-to-head against such established and talented actresses as Holland Taylor and Conchata Ferrell. In addition to her new primetime position, Williams starred in a pair of limited release independent films, including "My Brother" (2007), which earned her Best Actress honors at the Harlem International Film Festival, the African-American Women in Cinema Film Festival, and the Santa Barbara African Heritage Film Festival. With "Then Came Love" (2007), Williams starred as a single mother in search of the anonymous sperm donor who enabled her to have a child. She next hit mainstream cinemas playing the publicist of teen pop star Hannah Montana in "Hannah Montana: The Movie" (2009). Back on the small screen, she once again earned an Outstanding Supporting Actress Emmy nomination for her continuing work on "Ugly Betty." Not long after "Betty" was cancelled in 2010, Williams joined the cast of an even higher-profile program, "Desperate Housewives" (ABC, 2004-2012).

Credits

Live with Kelly and MarkStream

Guest
Talk
2023

Sherri

Guest
Talk
2022

The Jennifer Hudson ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2022

National Cherry Blossom Festival

Music Performer
Show
2022

Queen of the UniverseStream

Judge
Reality
2021

A Capitol Fourth 2021

Host
Show
2021

Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas With Vanessa Williams

Host
Show
2020

The Drew Barrymore ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2020

A Capitol Fourth

Host
Show
2020

GMA3: What You Need to Know

Guest
Show
2020

There She Is

Self
Movie
2020

Access Daily

Guest
Show
2019

Tamron HallStream

Guest
Talk
2019

Vanessa Williams Fashion Premiere

Actor
Show
2019

A Capitol Fourth

Music Performer
Show
2019

T.O.T.S.Stream

Voice
Captain Beakman
Series
2019

Today With Hoda & Jenna

Guest
Show
2019

Batman: HushStream

Voice
Amanda Waller
Movie
2019
83%

Miss VirginiaStream

Actor
Sally Rae
Movie
2019
53%

Tony Bennett: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song

Music Performer
Show
2018

Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay

Voice
Amanda Waller
Movie
2018

Legend of Hallowaiian

Voice
Fire Goddess
Movie
2018

DynastyStream

Guest Star
Nellie
Series
2017

Me, Myself & I

Guest Star
Kelly Frasier
Series
2017
63%

Megyn Kelly Today

Guest
Talk
2017

Daily Blast Live

Guest
Show
2017

Daytime DivasStream

Actor
Maxine Robinson
Series
2017
60%

National Memorial Day Concert

Music Performer
Show
2017

Live with Kelly and Ryan

Guest
Talk
2017

Dave Koz Feat. Vanessa Williams: The Way We Were

Music Performer
Show
2017

The Man From Earth: Holocene

Actor
Carolyn
Movie
2017

Doc McStuffins: Toy Hospital

Guest Voice
Delilah
Show
2016

The $100,000 PyramidStream

Guest
Game Show
2016

Match GameStream

Guest
Game Show
2016

Celebrity PageStream

Guest
News
2016

The 2016 Miss America Competition

Judge
Show
2015

Difficult PeopleStream

Guest Star
Trish
Series
2015
96%

The LibrariansStream

Guest Star
Gen. Cynthia Rockwell
Series
2014

Women of Power

Guest
Show
2014

The List With Colleen Lopez

Guest
Show
2014

Broad CityStream

Guest Star
Elizabeth Carlton
Series
2014
99%

The Trip to Bountiful

Actor
Jessie Mae Watts
Movie
2014

Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic

Narrator
Movie
2014

When Marnie Was There

Voice
Hisako
Movie
2014

A Very Special Christmas: 25 Years of Bringing Joy to the World

Host
Show
2013

The Queen Latifah Show

Guest
Talk
2013

Bethenny

Guest
Talk
2013

The Social

Guest
Show
2013

The Real

Guest
Talk
2013

Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor

Actor
Janice
Movie
2013

666 Park Avenue

Actor
Olivia Doran
Series
2012
58%

The Mindy ProjectStream

Guest Star
Series
2012
86%

Katie

Guest
Talk
2012

Live! With Kelly and Michael

Host
Talk
2012

The Chew Presents ABC's Primetime Fall Preview Special

Guest
Show
2012

Good Afternoon America

Guest
Show
2012

My Momma Throws Down

Judge
Show
2012

Doc McStuffinsStream

Guest Voice
Delilah
Series
2012

CBS This Morning

Guest
Show
2012

Project Runway All Stars

Guest
Show
2012

Delhi Safari

Voice
Begam
Movie
2012

LIVE with Kelly

Guest
Show
2011

The Chew

Guest
Talk
2011

Anderson

Guest
Show
2011

Dish Nation

Guest
Talk
2011

The Marilyn Denis Show

Guest
Show
2011

Gospel Superfest Holiday 10

Host
Show
2010

The Talk

Guest
Talk
2010

Access Hollywood Live

Guest
Show
2010

Who Do You Think You Are?Stream

Guest Star
Reality
2010

Dreams Come True: A Celebration of Disney Animation

Host
Show
2009

Gospel Superfest Holiday 9

Host
Show
2009

Lopez Tonight

Guest
Show
2009

Modern FamilyStream

Guest Star
Rhonda
Series
2009
85%

The Good WifeStream

Guest Star
Courtney Paige
Series
2009
93%

The Dr. Oz Show

Guest
Talk
2009

Daytime Emmy Awards

Host
Show
2009

The 36th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards

Host
Show
2009

Watch What Happens Live With Andy CohenStream

Guest Star
Talk
2009

Royal PainsStream

Guest Star
Olympia Houston
Series
2009

Feel the Beat

Music Performer
Show
2009

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon

Guest
Talk
2009

Vanessa Williams: Just Friends

Music Performer
Show
2009

Hannah Montana: The Movie

Actor
Vita
Movie
2009

The 60th Primetime Emmy Awards

Guest
Show
2008

La Zone des prises

Actor
Show
2008

The Wendy Williams Show

Guest
Talk
2008

AFI's 10 Top 10

Guest
Show
2008

Las Películas de Mamá Mirabelle

Voice
Mama Mirabelle
Show
2007

The Better Show

Guest
Show
2007

The Morning Show With Mike & Juliet

Guest
Show
2007

Dave Koz Feat. Vanessa Williams: The Way We Were

Music Performer
Show
2007

And Then Came Love

Actor
Julie
Movie
2007

Our World With Black Enterprise

Guest
Show
2006

Ugly BettyStream

Actor
Wilhelmina Slater
Series
2006
97%

Rachael Ray ShowStream

Guest
Talk
2006

The One Show

Guest
Show
2006

South Beach

Actor
Elizabeth Bauer
Show
2006

My Brother

Actor
L'Tisha Morton
Movie
2006

Everybody Hates ChrisStream

Guest Star
Tallulah Lafitte
Series
2005
95%

The Tyra Show

Guest
Talk
2005

National Memorial Day Concert

Music Performer
Show
2005

Serial Bowl

Actor
Show
2005

Desperate HousewivesStream

Actor
Renee Perry
Series
2004
72%

The Insider

Guest
Show
2004

Tavis Smiley

Guest
Talk
2004

Johnson Family Vacation

Actor
Dorothy Johnson
Movie
2004

The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Guest
Talk
2003

Jimmy Kimmel Live!Stream

Guest
Talk
2003

Boomtown

Actor
Series
2002
96%

Keep the Faith, Baby

Actor
Hazel Scott
Movie
2002

Santa Baby!

Voice
Alicia
Show
2001

Live With Regis and Kelly

Guest
Show
2001

WWIII

Actor
Movie
2001

WW3

Actor
M.J. Blake
Movie
2001

Soul Food

Actor
Maxine Chadway
Series
2000

The Courage to Love

Actor
Mother Henriette Delille
Movie
2000

The Courage to Love

Executive Producer
Movie
2000

Don Quixote

Actor
Dulcinea / Aldonza
Movie
2000

ShaftStream

Actor
Carmen Vasquez
Movie
2000
67%

A Diva's Christmas Carol

Actor
Ebony Scrooge
Movie
2000

Don Quijote

Actor
Movie
2000

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire

Contestant
Game Show
1999

Light It UpStream

Actor
Audrey McDonald
Movie
1999
39%

The Adventures of Elmo in GrouchlandStream

Actor
Queen of Trash
Movie
1999
77%

L.A. Doctors

Guest Star
Series
1998

Lateline

Guest Star
Show
1998

Chayanne & Vanessa Williams: Refugio de amor

Music Performer
Show
1998

Dance With Me

Actor
Ruby Sinclair
Movie
1998

Futuresport

Actor
Alex Torres
Movie
1998

Ally McBeal

Guest Star
Series
1997
61%

The View

Guest
Talk
1997

The View

Music Performer
Talk
1997

The OdysseyStream

Actor
Calypso
Miniseries
1997

HoodlumStream

Actor
Francine Hughes
Movie
1997
43%

Soul FoodStream

Actor
Teri
Movie
1997
82%

Access HollywoodStream

Guest
News
1996

EraserStream

Actor
Lee Cullen
Movie
1996
43%

MADtvStream

Guest Star
Series
1995
43%

Murder OneStream

Actor
Series
1995
91%

Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child

Voice
Show
1995

Nothing Lasts Forever

Actor
Dr. Kathy 'Kat' Hunter
Movie
1995

Bye Bye Birdie

Actor
Rose Alvarez
Movie
1995

Extra

Guest
News
1994

Star Trek: Deep Space NineStream

Guest Star
Arandis
Series
1993
91%

The Jacksons: An American Dream

Actor
Suzanne de Passe
Miniseries
1992

Melrose PlaceStream

Actor
Rhonda Blair
Series
1992

Manhattan Savoy

Actor
Movie
1992

Stompin' at the Savoy

Actor
Pauline
Movie
1992

Vanessa Williams: The Comfort Zone

Music Performer
Show
1991

Harley Davidson and the Marlboro ManStream

Actor
Lulu Daniels
Movie
1991

Another You

Actor
Gloria
Movie
1991

The Fresh Prince of Bel-AirStream

Guest Star
Series
1990

El Caso de la Cantante Silenciada

Actor
Movie
1990

Perry Mason: The Case of the Silenced Singer

Actor
Terri Knight
Movie
1990

The Kid Who Loved Christmas

Actor
Lynette Parks
Movie
1990

Codigo de Muerte

Actor
Movie
1989

Full Exposure: The Sex Tapes Scandal

Actor
Valentine Hayward
Movie
1989

Under the Gun

Actor
Samantha Richards
Movie
1989

Le Droit du plus fort

Actor
Movie
1989

Vanessa Williams: Dreamin'

Music Performer
Show
1988

Vidéo scandale

Actor
Movie
1988

The Pick-Up Artist

Actor
Rae, Girl with Dog
Movie
1987
61%

Partners in Crime

Guest Star
Roselle Robins
Show
1984

Entertainment Tonight

Guest
News
1981

Entertainment Tonight

Host
News
1981

CBS News Sunday Morning

Guest
News
1979

Live From Lincoln Center

Music Performer
Show
1976

Good Morning America

Guest
News
1975

Good Morning America

Music Performer
News
1975

Saturday Night LiveStream

Music Performer
Series
1975

Great PerformancesStream

Music Performer
Franchise
1972

Days of our LivesStream

Actor
Soap
1965

Today

Guest
News
1952

Today

Music Performer
News
1952

News aboutVanessa Williams