Vanessa Williams: Miss America pageant apologises to first black winner 32 years after forcing her resign following nude photos

The actress returned as a judge on Sunday evening

Heather Saul
Monday 14 September 2015 12:01 BST
Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams performs during the Miss America Pageant at Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams performs during the Miss America Pageant at Boardwalk Hall, in Atlantic City, New Jersey (Reuters)

The Miss America pageant has finally apologised to Vanessa Williams, the first black winner of the contest, 32 years after she was forced to resign when explicit images of her were published in Penthouse magazine.

The Ugly Betty actress was crowned Miss America in 1984 and effectively stripped of her title 10 months later when nude images taken before she entered the competition were published.

Williams, 52, went on to launch a successful singing and acting career, selling more than seven million records globally and receiving Emmy, Grammy and Tony nominations for her work.

More recently she has starred in the drama Desperate Housewives and Broadway's The Trip To Bountiful. She also co-authored the book 'You Have No Idea', with her mother Helen Williams.

She returned to the contest on Sunday evening as a judge and helped select Betty Cantrell, 21, of Georgia for the new title.

Sam Haskell, the executive chairman of the Miss America pageant, welcomed Williams' return to the stage over three decades after she became the only title holder in history to resign and apologised on behalf of the pageant for her treatment.

"Though none of us currently in the organisation were involved then, on behalf of today's organisation I want to apologise to you and to your mother, Ms. Helen Williams,” said Mr Haskell, prompting a storm of applause from the audience.

“I want to apologise 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."

Speaking to journalists after the ceremony, Williams thanked the public for supporting her when she resigned as Miss America and in the years after the scandal broke.

"I want to thank everyone who has come up to me over the past 32 years and said, 'You'll always be my Miss America. I got a chance to be on the stage and represent what I represented back in 1984. Thank you so much for being so welcoming to me."

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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