Vanessa Lynn Williams (born March 18, 1963) is an American actress, singer, and fashion designer. She initially gained recognition as the first African-American recipient of the Miss America title when she was crowned Miss America 1984 in 1983. However, a scandal arose the following year when, a few weeks prior to the end of her reign, Williams learned that Penthouse magazine would be publishing unauthorized nude photographs of her in an upcoming issue. Amid growing media controversy and scrutiny, Williams resigned as Miss America in July 1984 (under pressure from the Miss America Organization), and was replaced by first runner-up Miss New Jersey Suzette Charles. Thirty-two years later, Miss America CEO Sam Haskell offered her a public apology (during the Miss America 2016 pageant) for the events of 1984.
Williams rebounded as a recording artist in the late 1980s and released her debut studio album The Right Stuff (1988), whose title single saw moderate success before "Dreamin’" peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. Her second and third studio albums, The Comfort Zone (1991) and The Sweetest Days (1994), saw continued commercial success and for which she received multiple Grammy Award nominations. Her most recent studio albums include Everlasting Love (2005) and The Real Thing (2009). Williams has also enjoyed success as an actress in film and on television and stage, receiving an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for her portrayal of Teri Joseph in the film Soul Food (1997). Her best known television roles are that of Wilhelmina Slater on Ugly Betty (2006–10), for which she was twice nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, and Renee Perry on Desperate Housewives (2010–12).