If racist comments get too much for newly crowned Miss America Nina Davuluri, former Miss America and actress Vanessa Williams said she’s told Davuluri to call her anytime.
“I told her I’m here for her,” Williams said during a telephone interview Thursday night from her dressing room, during an intermission of the Broadway play she’s starring in, “The Trip to Bountiful.” “I told her to please call me anytime. I know what she’s going through, and I’m here.”
The former Miss America and the new Miss America are now following each other on Twitter, Williams said.
Williams, who also was Miss Syracuse and Miss New York before becoming Miss America in 1983, said she invited Davuluri to her play when she heard she was touring New York City. Davuluri attended Wednesday’s matinee performance and then went backstage to chat with Williams in her dressing room.
Davuluri, 24, of Fayetteville, was named Miss America on Sunday night.
“She is young enough that she could be my daughter,” said Williams, 50. “But there’s a kinship there. I feel like I’m not only a mentor to her, but a fellow sister as well.”
Williams said Davuluri took pictures of the two of them, and they hit it off. “We talked about the coincidences we share, with us both being Miss Syracuse and then Miss New York, both of us being trailblazers, and both crowned on the same exact day,”
Williams said Davuluri impressed her. “She’s a lovely, smart and talented woman,” she said. “She will be a great spokesperson for Indian-Americans in the U.S.”
Wlliams said they talked about the racist attacks aimed at Davuluri. Williams said she can relate as she also bore the brunt of insults during her reign because she was the first black Miss America.
“I was 20 at the time,” Williams said, “and I was getting death threats. I hope she doesn’t have to deal with the fear that I had to.
“I told her the backlash is because you have ridiculous ignorant people who just love to dwell in negativity and name calling,” she said.
Williams said she devoted a chapter in her recently published book, “You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other)” to the insults and threats she faced. In it, she talks about how her parents shielded her “because they didn’t want me to spend my year in fear,” she said.
Williams, who has become a well-known television, movie and Broadway actress, said she asked Davuluri if she was exhausted and the answer was yes.
“I told her that’s not unusual, and I know exactly how that is,” she said. “Along with Miss America appearances, you have a whole lot of other people interested in you and so your schedule doubles and constantly changes.”
As for advice, Williams said she told Davuluri to write everything down so she’ll remember it as she travels all over the country.