Vanessa Williams Returns to Judge Miss America Pageant 32 Years After Her Historic Win

In September, 1983 Vanessa Williams became the first African-American woman to be crowned Miss America. In July 1984, she became the first Miss America to resign her crown due to nude photos that were published in "Penthouse" without her consent. Thirty-two years, later Williams will return as head judge of the Miss America pageant.

In 1984, Williams told People "this would have to be the worst thing that has happened in my life. But I can't go any place but up. I've hit rock bottom.” She was told the photos she took in 1982 would never be published.
"He said he had a concept of having two models pose nude for silhouettes. Basically to make different shapes and forms. The light would be behind the models. I was reluctant, but since he assured me that I would be the only one to see them and I would not be identifiable in the photographs, I agreed... I did not give my consent to him or Penthouse to ever have them published, used in any magazine or in any way," she said. “I feel as if I were just a sacrificial lamb. The past just came up and kicked me. I felt betrayed and violated, like I had been raped."

Despite the scandal, Williams has earned multiple Grammy nominations and an Academy award. She has also starred on Broadway, TV, and in films in the 32 years since she lost her crown.

C.E.O. and executive chairman of the pageant, Sam Haskell said, “Vanessa Williams made history by becoming the first African American to win the competition when she was crowned Miss America 1984, and she went on to conquer the worlds of music, Broadway, television, and film. It is a great honor to welcome her back to the competition as our head judge.” There is no mention of the 1984 scandal in the statement.
Williams will join Brett Eldredge, Taya Kyle, Danica McKellar, Kevin O’Leary, Amy Purdy, and Zendaya in judging the Miss America competition on September 13.

Photos: Getty