#TBT: On this Day in 1983, Vanessa Willams Became The First Black Miss America

By Sameer Rao Sep 17, 2015

Few black women in the public eye have weathered the storm of media hypocrisy and public backlash better than Vanessa Williams. In an unfortunately-common story of women of color losing agency, the iconic singer/actress/producer broke barriers to become the first black woman crowned Miss America—only to have that title stripped from her after unauthorized nude photos were published by Penthouse. 

But that castigation didn’t stop Williams forever. Instead, she rebuilt her career in acting and music. Now, she’s arguably better known for appearances on shows like "Ugly Betty" and "Ally McBeal" and hit singles like "Save the Best for Last" han the Miss America fiasco. Miss America producers seemed to understand that when they invited Williams to be the head judge for this year’s pageant on Sunday—capstoned by a public apology from CEO Sam Haskell. 

While we recognize the sexist, body-shaming, colorist and often-racist underpinnings of the Miss America machine, Ms. Williams’s achivements still stand. For that, the 32nd anniversary of her crowning today (which you can see below) is worth a #TBT. 


(H/t CNN