Few people are more iconic than Vanessa Williams, whose impressive work includes a prolific music career with numerous hit songs like "Save the Best for Last," a Broadway stage portfolio and legendary TV and movies roles, like Wilhelmina Slater in Ugly Betty, and now she's coming to Canada to perform live.
Performing at The Rose Brampton on Oct. 15, in Brampton, Ont., Williams certainly knows how to put on a show.
“I do all my hits and talk about my life,” she told Yahoo Canada, adding that anyone who comes to her show will also hear some Broadway songs and R&B. “I'm lucky that I have hits that even the...young ones who know my music, don't even correlate me with those hits because they know me on television.”
“There are moments that you hopefully will tear up, there are moments that you're going to want to move your shoulders and dance along, and hopefully take it back..so you can remember...when you first heard the songs.”
Upcoming project based on Miss America scandal
Most recently Vanessa Williams made headlines when Deadline reported that her personal story around the 1980s Miss America scandal would be developed into a limited series. In 1983, Williams was the first Black woman to be crowned Miss America, but was forced by the organization to resign her title when nude photos, taken before being named Miss America, were published in Penthouse magazine without her consent.
When asked about this upcoming project, Williams confirmed it's still in the very early stages.
“I was approached by Neil Meron and Sony,...and now the next step is to find who I can work with that will capture what I want captured,” Williams said. “We don't even have a script…[but] we're getting ready to dive in on our Zooms and start our meetings.”
In terms of capturing what she wants to capture, the star highlighted that the importance of family will be a core aspect of the story.
“The importance of family...has obviously shaped my life and was the anchor, and a huge part of my success that I've had,” Williams said. “The support that I've had from my family and friends is paramount.”
“Whoever is portraying my parents, that is going to be paramount because they were very influential in my life... I don't really know exactly what the time frame is, how limited the years we're going to go with.”
Iconic 'Soul Food' and 'Ugly Betty' characters
Not only is the way Vanessa Williams overcame such a massive scandal inspiring, but her body of work continues to impact people to this day.
Recently, there have been "justice for Teri" campaigns on social media, referring to her character in George Tillman Jr.'s Soul Food, alongside Vivica A. Fox and Nia Long, with the character described as being "uppity" and selfish. But as more people reflect about her character, she has recently been praised for trying to set boundaries in a family that kind of used her.
“I think back in the day, [Teri was portrayed] as not a villain but a hard ass, and now there's been this campaign like justice for Teri, everybody was beating up on her and she helps everybody out," Williams said. "So it's kind of funny that you make these iconic characters and they live forever.”
“Depending on the lens you see them, and the times of change, creates different responses.”
Looking at another infamous role Williams took on, Wilhelmina Slater in the show Ugly Betty, the star recalls how groundbreaking that series really was, even though there was a moment when she thought she might have to pass on the role.
“Ugly Betty was one of those joys to work on and when we shot the pilot in 2006, it was so unique,” Williams said. “I had four kids in four different schools in New York so great, I can be working and have this be my home base, and then of course they moved to [Los Angeles] and uprooted everything, and I basically said, 'I can't do it,'...and they basically came back and said, ‘how can we make this work?’”
“When I looked at Justin and him coming out, and Rebecca Romijn's character being trans, back then, in 2006, a trans character and these concepts were not on television.”
Speaking about the possibility of a reboot, Williams said it would be difficult after the passing of the show's creator Silvio Horta, but "you never know."
“Most of the writers have gone on to do amazing things and I don't know how you would update it because Betty is a young person trying to work her way in the world, but you never know,” Williams said.
'Follow your skill set'
With such an inspirational career, Vanessa Williams is and always will be one of the greatest artists and performers of all time, now sharing her wisdom with the next generation.
“What I did is not going to work for anyone in the business nowadays, back then there was no internet, you couldn't start your own label and distribute it yourself,” Williams said. “Nowadays, it's a much different landscape, record companies don't make money off their artists the way they used to, artists don't make money off their album sales, it's all about touring because nobody buys any albums anymore.”
“First thing is follow your skill set. What are you good at?...You get experience and you keep getting better at what you're good at, and you never know what other doors will open because of that… Don't be afraid to take challenges and be courageous because that's what life is about, experiencing new things, learning new things and meeting new people, and that's what makes life sweet but also brings you to the next level of your life.”