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Vanessa Williams Admits She Received 'Death Threats' After She Became Miss America

Dec. 4 2020, Published 12:00 p.m. ET

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Singer Vanessa Williams reflected on her scary time as the first Black Miss America in 1983.

The Ugly Betty actress appeared on "The Fat Joe Show" and got candid about how not everyone wanted her to wear the crown. "I won Miss Syracuse, Miss New York State and Miss America all within six months, so I went from my junior year at Syracuse University to all of a sudden, I was the first Black Miss America in 1983. And I had death threats because we’re talking 37 years ago," she explained.

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"A lot of people don’t like to be confronted with diversity, and I was the symbol of that, so I had to prove that I was smart enough. I was talented enough," she added. 

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Although the win wasn’t easy, neither was her reign as Miss America, and she gave up the crown as her time was coming to a close after Penthouse published nude photos from 1982. 

"After being Miss America, there was an issue with some pictures I had done, which did not have a release and they were sold behind my back. Six weeks before I was finishing my year as Miss America, I resigned," she said.

"So here I am at 21 years old, a scandalized beauty queen," Williams said. "I never wanted to be a beauty queen — and, of course, I never wanted to be a scandalized beauty queen."

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"So, I had so much judgment from a very early age against me. Is she talented enough, is she smart enough, does she really have the full package so I heard a lot of nos, and all the people thought I would just disappear. And I thought, 'Once the dust settles, you’ll get a chance to see who I really am.' And, that’s how I live my life," she added. 

Williams has since enjoyed a successful music and acting career which she seems happier doing — and even managed to prove all the haters wrong. 

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On Saturday, December 5, Williams will headline a streaming concert to benefit venues that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

"I was in the West End, about to open in a major show, 'City of Angels,'" she told Fox.  "We were one week away from opening, and that was going to be my West End debut. And Broadway closed down a week before, and we heard a trickling of ‘people are getting sick,’ and a lot of people that were friends of mine were canceling their flights over to come and see the show, so ... certainly, it felt like the rug was pulled out from under us."

"I will be doing some of my Broadway hits ... and some pop stuff, of course — 'Save the Best for Last' and 'Colors of the Wind' — and then, we'll squeeze in one, maybe two, holiday favorites from my two Christmas albums out," Williams teased ahead of the show.

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