FILE - In this Sept. 17, 1983 file photo, Miss New York Vanessa Williams is crowned Miss America 1984 at the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J. The Miss America Organization, Dick Clark Productions and the ABC television network announced Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, that they are bringing back the actress and singer to serve as head judge for the 2016 competition. Williams won the title in 1984 but resigned after Penthouse magazine published sexually explicit photographs of her taken several years earlier. (AP Photo, File)
FILE – In this Sept. 17, 1983 file photo, Miss New York Vanessa Williams is crowned Miss America 1984 at the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo, File)

Last night on the Miss America Awards, Vanessa Williams was given a long overdue apology…32 years later.  Williams was crowned the first black Miss America on September 17, 1983.  It was a beautiful celebration that many were proud of, including her mother.  Their celebration would abruptly end shortly after nude photos of her were released. photo courtesy of

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The genesis of the photos dated back to 1982, when she worked as an assistant and makeup artist for New York photographer Tom Chiapel. According to People Magazine, Williams posed nude with another woman in what was viewed as very provocative positions. The magazine also reports that she posed nude for photographer Gregg Whitman. even though Williams reportedly did not feel as comfortable with Whitman’s photos as she did with Chiapel’s. After several attempts, she convinced Whitman to hand over the negatives — or so she thought.

Time passed and Williams won the Miss Greater Syracuse competition, a preliminary round of the Miss America contest. She went on to win the Miss New York title and, on Sept. 17, 1983, she was crowned Miss America.

But, almost eight months later, she received a message that would rock her world.

On Friday, July 13, 1984, Williams got an anonymous phone call saying that nude photos of herself would appear in Penthouse Magazine.


“From that moment until the story broke was the worst week of my life,” she told People. “I had to keep smiling on the outside, but I was dying on the inside. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I had no idea what was out there. I assumed that the pictures would be Whitman’s. I never dreamed that Chiapel would betray me. Wrong again.”

Playboy’s Hugh Hefner was  approached by the pusher of the photos but passed on them because he did not want to disgrace Williams publicly. However when Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse, was offered the opportunity to publish the photos, he jumped at the chance.

He paid Chiapel for the rights to the film without Williams’ consent, and in September 1984, they were published for the entire world to see.

Williams saw no other choice but to bow out of Miss America. On Monday, July 23, 1984, she announced at a news conference that she would give up her crown, “The potential harm to the pageant, and the deep division that a bitter fight may cause, has convinced me that I must relinquish my title,” she said.

Last night, she was given an apology in front of the world, and her mother, who was in the audience.

“You are, and will always be, Miss America”…

photo courtesy of


Vanessa Williams Apology:


Miss America 1984 Crowning Moment: