Vanessa Williams Returns to Miss America Three Decades After Nude Photo Scandal, Will Serve as Judge

Vanessa Williams
Vanessa Williams will return to Miss America as a judge this Sunday, Sept. 13, more than three decades after her nude photo scandal forced her to resign from her title. 


She’s backkkk! Vanessa Williams is returning to the Miss America pageant, Dick Clark Productions and the organization announced on Tuesday, Sept. 8. The multi-hyphenate will participate in the pageant as a judge during the live broadcast this Sunday, Sept. 13, more than three decades after she resigned from her post following a nude photo scandal.

Williams, 52, the first-ever African-American to win the title in 1983, was forced to resign ten months after her win after nude, explicit photos from her past were published in Penthouse magazine.

Vanessa Williams
Miss New York Vanessa Williams winner of the 57th Miss America Pageant for 1984 NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Though the scandal rocked the pageant and America, Williams went on to become a successful actress, singer, and Broadway star.

In an interview slated to air on Thursday, Sept. 10, Williams told Good Morning America that the scandal lasted with her for many years. “It was two drastically different images. That was the issue. It was Miss America who’s really kind of untouched in that reality. And then there was this woman in a picture,” Williams reflected to Robin Roberts. “That was exactly the polar opposite of purity. And I was a normal kid in the middle.”

On Tuesday, it was confirmed that she will join the judges’ panel at the 95th Miss American pageant.

“I have been friends with Vanessa for 32 years,” Miss America CEO Sam Haskell told the Associated Press. “When the photos were published, there were people urging her to fight, but close supporters knew if she lost that fight that she would be completely removed from the history books. Instead of pursuing what would surely have been a long and stressful legal battle, Vanessa decided to resign and focus on her career. Vanessa and her family were hurt during the aftermath of the resignation, and that saddened me.”

Haskell claimed that he has been trying to recruit the star for many years. “Vanessa’s career speaks for itself, with all the success that she has had,” Haskell said. “When I became chairman of Miss America, one of the first calls I made was to Vanessa, to try to find a way to get her to come back. Her return as a huge success is a way for us all to move forward and put the past behind us. It’s truly an honor to welcome her back to the Miss America Pageant.”

Williams will join fellow judges Brett Eldredge, Danica McKellar, Kevin O’Leary, Taya Kyle, Amy Purdy, and Zendaya. The 95th Miss America pageant will be posted by Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke-Charvet.

The 2016 Miss America Competition will be broadcasted live on Sunday, Sept. 13, at 9 p.m. ET.

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