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‘This is Not Just a Story About Racy Photos’: Vanessa Williams’ Will Examine the ‘Racism’ and ‘Misogyny’ Behind Her ‘Miss America Scandal’ In Forthcoming Limited Series

Multi-talented entertainer Vanessa Williams made history in the early ’80s after becoming the first Black woman to win the Miss America title in 1983. However, the historical moment was soon overshadowed by a storm of controversy after Penthouse magazine legally bought and published nude photographs of her and another woman. Now the scandal is coming to television for a title-pending limited series. 

The 59-year-old star described the project as “incredibly personal to me.” She added, “There are so many inaccurate and untrue accounts of the events surrounding this period in my life, and as a mother, and as a Black woman, it is important to me that my truth be told and be documented from my perspective.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 15: Vanessa Williams poses at a photo call/press day for the new play “POTUS” at Sardi’s on March 15, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/Getty Images)

There’s no release date. However, fans seem excited about what’s in store as many already have started reacting to news of the upcoming project on social media, including writer Meecham Whitson Meriweather who wrote, “Zendaya call your manager!”

Another supporter commented, “She’s resilient and she survived thrived and prospered.”

“I have loved her the entire time!!!! I was glad her fame blew up! She was and is beautiful and talented,” wrote a third. “I love that she recovered so spectacularly. She’s amazing!” wrote another person. 

On July 23, 1984, a then 21-year-old Williams ultimately returned her crown, marking the first time a recipient of the prestigious honor had done so after Penthouse announced that it would publish raunchy photos she had posed for two years earlier while working as a photographer’s assistant.

The compromising pictures, which featured the model alongside another woman, appeared in the magazine’s September 1984 issue with the headline: “Miss America: Oh, God, She’s Nude!” Critics and pageant organizers were stunned by the images of Williams, who was reportedly told she would be unidentifiable and that the photos would never see the light of day. 

Nearly three decades after the incident, Williams returned to the pageant as a judge. She got an emotional, face-to-face apology from then-Miss America CEO Sam Haskell for what unfolded during that incident.

Elsewhere in her statement, the actress noted, “This is not just a story about racy photos, it is about misogyny and racism, and I want to shine a light on that for future generations. I was not only able to survive what could have been a career-ending scandal but rose above it and have achieved a body of work I am extremely proud of.” 

The project is executive produced by Zadan/Meron Productions’ Meron and Mark Nicholson with Stephen Roseberry and Jon Carrasco of Encore Endeavor 1 (EE1).

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