Vanessa Lynn Williams was born in the suburban area of The Bronx in New York in 1963. She grew up in a musical household where both of her parents are music teachers.
At a young age, Williams devoted her time to music and dance. She also studied theatre arts and musical instruments, like piano and violin. Right after high school, Williams majored in musical theatre at Syracuse University.
Williams began entering beauty contests in 1983, where she got crowned as Miss America. The following year, the pageant board asked Williams to give up her crown when a magazine released unauthorized nude photos of her.
Eventually, Williams came back on track after releasing her debut album The Right Stuff in 1988. Her next singles received incredible success after reaching the Billboard charts and earning three Grammy Awards nominations.
Her succeeding albums, including The Comfort Zone and The Sweetest Days, received commercial success. Other performances include Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning song “Colors of the Wind” for Disney’s animated film Pocahontas.
Aside from her music career, Williams made her film debut in Partners in Crime as Roselle Robins in 1984. Since then, Williams worked in various TV series, though mostly in minor roles.
Williams is best known for the role of Wilhelmina Slater in Ugly Betty, where she received three Emmy nominations. She also joined the cast of the hit American soap opera Desperate Housewives as Renee Perry for two seasons.