This Day in Black History: March 18, 1963

Vanessa L. Williams was born in Millwood, New York. 

Posted: 03/18/2014 12:00 AM EDT
This Day in Black History: March 18, 1963

Actress and singer Vanessa L. Williams is famously known as the first African-American crowned as Miss America in 1983. She was born in the Bronx, New York, on March 18, 1963. 

Williams' parents moved her and her brother to the suburbs of Millwood, New York, when she was a year old. At a young age, Williams wanted to be the first Black Rockette and took up classical and jazz dance and theatre arts as well as piano and violin lessons.

After becoming Miss America on Sept. 17, 1983, nude photos she took with a photographer at a studio she worked at her freshman year at Syracuse University were sold to a publication without her knowing. She thought the photos had been destroyed. Soon after, she was asked to resign from her post. But the setback only set Williams up for a comeback.

She went on to record three Grammy-nominated albums The Right Stuff (1988),The Comfort Zone (1991) and The Sweetest Days (1994). Her song "Save the Best for Last" also topped the charts.

Williams became successful in television and film. She held a starring role on the television show Ugly Betty and also played in the movie Soul Food (1997). Most recently, she starred alongside Cicley Tyson and Cuba Gooding Jr. in the Tony-nominated play A Trip to Bountiful in 2013.


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(Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

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