Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Vanessa L. Williams
Another installment in my ongoing series of articles on transgender and non-trans women who have qualities that I admire.
I remember that September 1983 morning that I woke up, opened up the Chronicle and read the story about Vanessa Lynn Willams becoming the first African-American to win the Miss America crown.
It along with the Miss Black America, Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants were my favorites to watch back in the day. I got more than a little fed up about the gorgeous sistahs who had graced the Miss USA, Miss America and Miss Universe pageant stages over the years who sometimes didn't even make it to the twelve semifinalist phase of the pageant. Janelle Commissiong of Trinidad and Tobago broke through in 1977 to becme the first woman of African descent to win Miss Universe, so I did hold out hope that a sistah would eventually do the same here in the States.
That year she and Suzette Charles made it to the five finalists but for some reason I turned the TV off and went to bed mumbling to myself, "They're gonna end up third and fourth runners-up." I was happy to see the picture of Vanessa eating breakfast in bed while I ate a Texas-sized portion of crow. (For the record, the first runner-up was Suzette Charles)
She goes from that lofty height of being Miss America 1984 to tragically having her crown stripped before her historic reign was about to end. After holding that press conference resigning the crown, many people wrote her off.
In 1988 I was driving home from work and was jamming to a brand new song being played on Majic 102 called 'The Right Stuff'. When the DJ annnounced that it was Vanessa Williams I was blown away.
Vanessa still has it going on. She oozes style and class. She's had the right stuff for years. She's done hit movies, Broadway, television and recorded hit albums. She's nominated for numerous awards, won a Grammy and NAACP Image Awards. Vanessa turned a moment that would have broken some people into a triumphant career that makes her arguably the most successful Miss America ever. I still laugh when I read the story about the prophetic birth announcement her parents issued when she was born March 18, 1963 that stated 'Here She Is, Miss America.'
As you can tell, I'm proud of her and I'm still a fan. She's on my short list of artists who if they release a CD I don't insist on listening to it before I buy it. I just simply snap it up and take it home. I have the same reaction to any movie or television show that she's involved in. I'd heard about 'Ugly Betty', but once I found out she was part of the show's cast it's Must See TV for moi.
One of the lessons I take from her life is never give up on your dreams no matter what obstacles are placed in your path. Keep fighting for them and they will happen.