In 1983, Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America and became the first Black woman to receive the coveted title. With less than 60 days remaining in her reign, nude photos of Williams were published in Penthouse magazine.The resulting scandal over the photos led to Williams being stripped of her crown and for some tarnished the image of the contest.
There were many who felt that the scandal was handled in a racist and unfair way. This led to a time of great turmoil for Williams. But finally after decades, the CEO of The Miss America Pageant, Sam Haskell, issued the following statement on stage to Williams and the audience: “I have been a close friend to this beautiful and talented lady for 32 years. You have lived your life in grace and dignity, and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned. Though none of us currently in the organization were involved then, on behalf of today’s organization, I want to apologize to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams. I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be.”
The audience erupted in applause and Williams was brought to tears at the long overdue apology which severely impacted her life and career. This year, Williams was named as head judge for the contest.