Three decades after Vanessa Williams had to give back her crown amid a nude photo scandal, the Miss America organization is ready to forgive and forget. Williams, now a Grammy, Tony and Emmy-nominated performer, will serve as the head judge of this year's pageant, Dick Clark Productions and the ABC television network announced Tuesday.
Williams, the first Black Miss America, won the title in 1984 but resigned after Penthouse magazine ran nude photographs of her taken several years earlier. The scandal did nothing to slow down her career, however — she went on to conquer film, television, music, Broadway and continues to work to this day.
Sam Haskell, executive chairman and CEO of the Miss America Organization, says he's been working on bringing Williams back to the family for years.
"Vanessa's career speaks for itself, with all the success that she has had," Haskell said. "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."
Williams will serve as head judge for the 2016 competition, leading a panel that includes Zendaya, Chris Harrison, Kevin O'Leary and more. The competition begins Tuesday and culminates in the crowning of the next Miss America on Sunday.
Watch Vanessa talk to us about starring opposite Cicely Tyson in Broadway's A Trip to Bountiful, below:
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