The Miss America Organization, Dick Clark Production, and the ABC television network are bringing back Vanessa Williams, award-winning actress and singer, to serve as head judge for the 2016 competition.
In 1984 Vanessa Williams became the first African-American Miss America, but resigned after Penthouse Magazine published nude photos, that was taken before the pageant. Sam Haskell, executive chairman and CEO of the Miss America Organization stated, “I have been friends with Vanessa for 32 years,” he told The Associated Press. “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. Instead of pursuing what would surely have been a long and stressful legal battle, Vanessa decided to resign and focus on her career. Vanessa and her family were hurt during the aftermath of the resignation, and that saddened me.” He also stated that he has been trying for decades for Vanessa to come back to the Miss America stage, but this is the first year this could happen.
Vanessa Williams did have a successful career after the scandal. She had a number one album “The Right Stuff” in 1988. It sold over 7 million records worldwide and has No. 1 and Top Ten hits on various Billboard album and singles charts. She also won a Grammy and an Oscar for Best Original Song for her platinum single “Color of the Wind”, from the Disney film “Pocahontas”.
She was honored by four Emmy nominations, a Tony, three Screen Actors Guild award nominations, seven NAACP Image Awards, and a Golden Globe for her career in television and film. She recently starred in the television shows “Ugly Betty” and “Desperate Housewives”.
She joins pageant hosts Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke-Charvet, music curator Nick Jonas. Celebrity judges include Brett Eldredge, Taya Kyle, Danica McKellar, Kevin O’Leary, Amy Purdy, and Zendaya.
The pageant will begin September 8th and culminates in the crowning of the next Miss America on Sunday.