The most important moment of the Miss America Pageant was an apology to Vanessa Williams
Last night, 21-year-old Betty Cantrell (Miss Georgia) took home the title at the Miss America pageant—a major win following three consecutive years of titles going to Miss New York. But the highlight of the event, which took place in Atlantic City, was a long-awaited apology that went to Miss America 1984, better known as actress and singer Vanessa Williams.
Here’s a history lesson: In September 1983, Williams became the first African-American woman to receive the Miss America crown, an achievement that earned her both praise and no small amount of hatred. So, it was no surprise that 10 months into her reign, the 21-year-old was forced to resign when nude photos of her surfaced in Penthouse magazine without her consent.
”It is apparent to me now that because of all that has happened during the past week, it would be difficult to make appearances as Miss America,” Williams said at the time. “I feel at this time I should expend my energies in launching what I hope will be a successful career in the entertainment business.”
And we all know what happened there. Vanessa Williams went on to have a very successful and very long career, appearing as the indomitable Wilhelmina Slater on Ugly Betty to the tune of three Emmy nominations and killing it on Broadway.
So, 30 years after receiving and losing her crown, Williams was invited to perform and be a head judge at this year’s Miss America pageant. To her surprise, Miss America CEO Sam Haskell decided it was also the right time to formally—and very publicly—apologize to Williams for the way she was treated.
“On behalf of today’s organization,” he said. “I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be.”
“Thank you so much,” said Williams, still looking flawless at 52. “So unexpected, but so beautiful. I did the best as I could as my reign as Miss America in 1983 to ‘84…I’m so honored to be back.”
(Image via YouTube)