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Vanessa  Williams

Vanessa Williams

Actress & Recording Artist


Throughout her performing career, Vanessa Williams has maintained a reputation as one of the most respected and multi-faceted entertainers in the world, amassing one accomplishment after another. She has conquered the musical charts, Broadway, music videos, television, and motion pictures. Read More >

She has sold over four million albums worldwide and her skills as an actress on stage, in film, and on television consistently earn great praise. She has also become an author with the release of her new book, co-authored with her mother, Helen Williams, entitled You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other).

Williams has been nominated for both Grammy and Tony awards and received critical acclaim for her role in the hit show Ugly Betty. She earned an NAACP Image Award for the box-office hit Soul Food and has starred opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Eraser and Laurence Fishburne in Hoodlum. Other film credits include Under the Gun, Another You, The Pick-Up Artist, and Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.

Williams launched her recording career with The Right Stuff and received three Grammy nominations. There were more Grammy nods with her hit single “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s Pocahontas—which garnered Academy and Golden Globe Awards, as well as the Grammy for Best Song in a Motion Picture. In 1993, she realized a lifelong dream, taking Broadway by storm in the box-office sensation “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and her individual performance won critics over, firmly establishing Williams as an entertainment triple-threat.

Vanessa Williams inspires audiences to recognize when “opportunity unexpectedly knocks at your door.” A devoted mother of four who balances family life with the demands of her entertainment career, she is an example of strength, determination, grace, and dignity to women who face adversity while pursuing dreams.

Williams was consumed by the arts at a young age, as her parents were music teachers who encouraged her to pursue her love of performing arts. While attending Syracuse University, Williams participated in the Miss Greater Syracuse Pageant. Three months later, she won the Miss America title, becoming the first African American to earn the crown. She credits an ensuing controversy with further empowering her commitment to a career in entertainment.

In 1996, Williams won the Lena Horne Career Achievement Award at the Soul Train "Lady of Soul" Awards. She is actively involved with charitable organizations, including Green Chimneys, helping troubled inner-city adolescents; The Open Door, providing walk-in medical care for homeless families; The Cottage School for displaced young women; and the Special Olympics.

Her musical accomplishments also include Ain't Nuthin' but a She Thing, a special all-female concept record with funds from the album donated to The Shirley Divers Foundation for Women and charities dedicated to women's health. She can also be heard on People, an album celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, and contributed the song "Snowflakes" to For Our Children Too!, a collection to benefit the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Read Less ^

Speech Topics

Empowering Women