A Brief History
On September 17, 1983, Syracuse University student Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America, the first African American woman to win the coveted title. In a bizarre nod to the future, her birth announcement included the line, “Here she is: Miss America”!
Sadly, less than a year later, a scandal involving Penthouse Magazine announcing they were going to publish nude photos of Vanessa led to her resigning her “office.” In another twist of fate, her successor, the “First Runner Up” in the 1983 contest to name “Miss America 1984” was Suzette Charles, also of African descent.
Williams rebounded from her resignation to a wonderful career in entertainment, including singing, screen acting and stage acting. She even found success as a fashion designer.
A whopping 32 years after her resignation, the Miss America contest offered a public apology to Williams for having had her resign.
Question for students (and subscribers): Who is your favorite Miss America? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Argetsinger, Amy. There She Was: The Secret History of Miss America. Atria/One Signal Publishers, 2021.
Williams, Vanessa and Helen Williams. You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other). Penguin, 2012.
The featured image in this article, a photograph of President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan with Vanessa Williams, in the public domain in the United States because it is a work prepared by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.
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