Vanessa Williams was born March 18, 1963 in Tarrytown, New York. Her parents were music teachers and at the age of 5, she learned to play the piano, violin, flute and French horn.
In 1983 she entered the Miss America contest as Miss New York. Her singing performance of “Happy Days are Here Again” helped her to become the first Black Miss America. Later in the year, she added another first to her name: first Miss America to resign. She was forced to give up her crown after photos taken of her years earlier turned up in Penthouse Magazine. Officially she is listed as Miss America, 1984. Her successor, first runner-up Suzette Charles, is also listed as Miss America 1984 on the pageant’s official Web site, with the dates of their reigns as 9/17/83-7/23/84 for Williams and 7/23/84-9/15/84, for Charles.
Soon after the scandal, her recording career took off and she has had many best-selling songs, including the “Sweetest Days” and “Save the Best for Last”. She also has enjoyed success as an actress and is one of the most successful of all Miss America’s.