Throughout her performing career, Vanessa Williams has maintained a reputation as one of the most respected and multi-faceted entertainers in the world. She has conquered the musical charts, Broadway, music videos, television and motion pictures, and has sold over four million albums worldwide. She is also a champion for the cause of educating women on the prevention of heart disease, which has been a part of Williams' family.
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Throughout her performing career, Vanessa Williams has maintained a reputation as one of the most respected and multi-faceted entertainers in the world, amassing accomplishments and accolades, one after another. She has conquered the musical charts, Broadway, music videos, television and motion pictures. She has sold over four million albums worldwide and her skills as an actress on stage, in film and on television have earned praise from the most seasoned of critics.
Performing - and music in particular - has always played an important role in Vanessa's life. Born in Millwood, New York, Vanessa's early years were spent surrounded by music. Both her parents are music teachers who recognized her musical gifts early on and encouraged her to pursue her love of the arts. When she was young, she acted, danced, played piano and French horn in her high school orchestra, concert band and marching band and she sang in the concert choir and chorus.
Vanessa won a Presidential Scholarship in Drama and chose to continue her education at Syracuse University, where she majored in musical theatre. While at college in 1983, Vanessa was sought after by local talent scouts who invited her to participate in the Miss Greater Syracuse Pageant. Three months later, Vanessa won the 1983 Miss America title and the $30,000 scholarship that accompanied it. The controversy that followed only left Vanessa stronger and more empowered in her commitment to a career in the world of entertainment.
Williams released her debut album The Right Stuff in 1988, which spawned the hits "The Right Stuff", a #1 on Hot Dance Songs, and "Dreamin'" a #1 on R&B and #8 on Billboard Hot 100. Her second studio album The Comfort Zone in 1991 topped the Billboard R&B Album Chart, which spawned the Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit "Save the Best for Last".
In 1994 she debuted on Broadway in the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman. In 1995 she recorded "Colors of the Wind", the Oscar-winner for Best Original Song from the Disney animated feature film Pocahontas, which reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Williams' first film acting role was as the star of the feature film Eraser in 1996. She also starred in the movies Soul Food, Dance with Me, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, Shaft and Johnson Family Vacation.
From 2006 to 2010 she played the role of the scheming, self-absorbed diva and former supermodel Wilhelmina Slater in the ABC comedy series Ugly Betty, for which she received three Emmy Awards nominations. In 2009, Williams released her eighth studio album, The Real Thing. In 2010 she joined the ensemble cast of the series Desperate Housewives as spoiled rich woman Renee Perry.