Vanessa Williams, the first African-American Miss America, was crowned on September 17, 1983. And dethroned (the pageant says “resigned”) the following year after nude pictures surfaced, scheduled to be published in Penthouse.
Thirty-two years later, it’s not just Miley Cyrus who’s nearly naked when she’s ostensibly dressed, but everyone in “empowering” street fashion–hot pants, thongs with pants and skirts as clingy as plastic wrap, bra tops, crop tops, etc.
I spent a few days with Vanessa Williams in the spring of 1988, shooting a cover and a feature for USA Weekend. She was friendly, easy to work with and of course, beautiful. We shot in my studio; with her husband and daughter, visited her parents in Westchester, still living in the house where Williams had grown up, for family portraits on the deck; set up in a recording studio where she was working on her new music, surrounding her with producers and technicians; and embraced a great New York performing arts center, Lincoln Center.
I was new to photographing highly recognizable celebrities, amazed at the energy generated just by her presence on the plaza, and as we waited for daylight to fade and the buildings’ lights to start to glow, the calm (and large) security people and seeming miles of mesh, connecting a forest of stanchions, held back an excited crowd.
Tonight Vanessa Williams returns to Miss America (“style, service, scholarship and success”– since 1921) as a judge. Kiss and (hair and) makeup. But what scandalizes me is that this fancy pageant walking never goes out of style.