Vanessa Lynn Williams (born March 18, 1963) is an American singer, actress, and fashion designer. She initially gained recognition as the first woman of African-American descent to receive the Miss America title when she was crowned Miss America 1984 in 1983. However, a scandal arose the following year when, a few weeks prior to the end of her reign, Williams learned that Penthouse magazine would be publishing now "iconic" unauthorized nude photographs of her in an upcoming issue. Amid growing media controversy and scrutiny, Williams resigned as Miss America in July 1984 (under pressure from the Miss America Organization) and was replaced by first runner-up Miss New Jersey Suzette Charles. Thirty-two years later, Miss America CEO Sam Haskell offered her a public apology (during the Miss America 2016 pageant) for the events of 1984.
Williams rebounded from the scandal with a successful career as a singer and actress. In 1988, she released her debut studio album The Right Stuff, whose title single saw moderate success before "Dreamin'" peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in the United States in 1989. With her second and third studio albums, The Comfort Zone (1991) and The Sweetest Days (1994), she saw continued commercial success and received multiple Grammy Award nominations; this included her number-one hit (in early 1992) and signature song, "Save the Best for Last", which she performed live at the 1993 Grammy Awards ceremonies. Her later studio albums include Everlasting Love (2005) and The Real Thing (2009).
As an actress, Williams enjoyed success on both stage and screen, receiving an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture for her portrayal of Teri Joseph in the film Soul Food (1997). Her best-known television roles are that of Wilhelmina Slater on Ugly Betty (2006–10), for which she was nominated three times for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, and Renee Perry on Desperate Housewives (2010–12).
She is also known as Vanessa Lynn Williams and Vanessa L. Williams.