Vanessa Williams Receives ‘Unexpected’ Apology at Miss America Pageant

Vanessa Williams received a public apology from the Miss America organization. (CreditMark Makela/Reuters)

Betty Cantrell of Georgia was crowned Miss America on Sunday, but an apology to Vanessa Williams stole the show.  In 1983, Ms. Williams, now 52, became the first African-American to win the Miss America pageant. She was forced to resign 10 months later after nude photographs of her surfaced.

She went on to enjoy a decades-long career in TV, film and music. But it was a particular redemption to return to Sunday’s pageant in Atlantic City as a celebrity judge.

After Ms. Williams sang a song, Sam Haskell, executive chairman of the Miss America pageant, apologized for the way the organization treated her three decades ago.

“I want to apologize 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,” Mr. Haskell said in an onstage apology.

Ms. Williams called the apology “so unexpected but so beautiful.”

Ms. Williams, who was 21 at the time, resigned after nude photos of her appeared in “Penthouse” magazine.

In her departing speech in 1984, Ms. Williams said that she had never consented to those photos being published; the magazine’s publisher responded by saying that the photos were an “interesting bit of highly newsworthy information and photographs,” and that the publication was carried out as an obligation to the magazine’s readers.

Ms. Williams’s return to the pageant was a happy one, and more than a little triumphant. In the days leading up to it, she shared photos of her Miss America crown and pin with her followers on social media.

article by Katie Rogers via

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