Drama Threatens to Derail Vanessa Williams’ Miss America Return

Williams wins the crown in 1984; Williams now (Photo: AP, Rob Kim/Getty)

The Miss America Pageant made headlines early this week when the organization announced that controversial beauty queen Vanessa Williams would return to serve as head judge at this Sunday’s event.

Williams famously became the first African-American Miss America when she won the 1984 crown in September 1983, but she forfeited her title just 10 months later after Penthouse magazine published unauthorized nude photos taken nearly two years before the pageant. Miss America officials reportedly pressured Williams into surrendering the crown to runner-up Suzette Charles after sponsors threatened to bail on the pageant.

It appears, however, that Williams’ anticipated return has hit a snag.

According to TMZ, Williams agreed to judge the pageant with the understanding that a Miss America official would “apologize for forcing her to resign” and present her with a new crown. However, pageant officials were reportedly under the impression that Vanessa would be the one apologizing for her part in the the decades-old controversy before receiving her new crown.

Williams and the pageant are now in a stand-off with just three days until the pageant airs live on ABC, which has run numerous promos touting the star’s involvement.

“I have been friends with Vanessa for 32 years,” Miss America Organization executive chairman and CEO Sam Haskell told the AP. “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.”

Despite the highly publicized incident, Williams still went on to enjoy a successful career as a singer and actress, earning 11 Grammy nominations, three Emmy nominations (for her work on “Ugly Betty”) and a Tony nomination.

 

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