After 32 years, Vanessa Williams returned to the Miss America stage. Although Williams, 52, is now known as a model, singer and actress, she first took the world by storm in 1983 as the first African-American woman crowned Miss America. However, her reign was short-lived. She gave up her title after a nude photo scandal that rocked the competition.
The photos were taken in 1982 before Williams won the Miss America title. After she was crowned, the photos surfaced and were published by Penthouse magazine in the September 1984 issue. On July 23, 1984, Williams resigned and the crown went to the runner-up, Miss New Jersey Suzette Charles. Williams later filed a $500 million lawsuit against the photographer of the photos and Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione, but she ultimately ended up dropping the lawsuit.
Before the festivities began, Miss America CEO Sam Haskell welcomed Vanessa Williams back to the competition as a judge. Calling her a “close friend,” Haskell told the audience at Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that Williams has always had grace and dignity – something that she maintained during the 1984 scandal. He continued that on behalf of today’s organization he wanted to apologize to her and her mother, Helen Williams.
Williams thanked Haskell for his “unexpected” yet “beautiful” words. She added that she did the best that she could during her reign from 1983-1984 and was happy to be able to return.