Williams, Vanessa

Vanessa Williams, the first African-American Miss America who rebounded from a nude-posing scandal to a hit career as singer, joined teh Star Trek family as Arandis, a Risian hostess in DS9’s “Let He Who Is Without Sin… .”

The 1996 episode was a big casting coup for the series, coming as Williams was pivoting from her music career into her first acting roles—including her first movie, Eraser, that same year. Amid her long and growing list of TV and film work, audiences may best know this 1963 Bronx native today as Wilhemina Slater on ABC’s Ugly Betty, gaining three Emmy nominations, and then on Desperate Housewives as Renee Perry. 

After Williams had to step aside from her 1984 pageant win in scandal, she rebuilt her career within four years with a hit series of pop and R&B singles. Her 6 million albums sold and 15 Grammy nominations are led by “The Right Stuff,” “Dreamin,” “Running Back to You” and “Save the Best for Last.” Later, her song “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s Pocohontas won the Oscar and Golden Globe.

As her acting career blossomed, so too did confusion with another African-American actoress of the same age from New York, Vanessa A. Williams—made worse by the fact they each appeared in versions of Soul Food. The Screen Actors Guild eventually let both use their names without an initial, although the "other" actress still bills herself as Vanessa A. Williams.

 

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