Vanessa Williams’ breathtaking beauty might be her least interesting attribute, I can report after interviewing her in November at Evine, the Eden Prairie-based online and cable retailer.
“This is my second year here in Minnesota doing my V. by Vanessa Williams for Evine. It’s gone wonderfully,” said Williams. “We get a lot of calls from people from all over the country, particularly women of color who want to look stylish and comfortable. I get a lot of women who say ‘I bought your dress and your jacket for church. I’m performing in something and I need something.’ So I know the aspect of being sophisticated and affordable is definitely coming through. Then there are a couple of items my daughters like. So I’m reaching that [younger] end of the range. They can buy some wide-leg pants with a slit up the side and feel funky and know that it’s washable, hang it out and be fine. I love wearing my stuff. I love when I see other people wearing my things, too.”
Williams said she remains grounded because her parents wouldn’t have allowed her to be any other way, despite her beauty and talents at singing, acting, dancing and playing piano. She talked about all that in “You Have No Idea,” the candid book written from the perspectives of Williams and her mom, Helen Williams. I got a priceless reaction from the former Miss America, who laughed off my description of her as a perfect specimen of a woman here in Part 1, for which there is also video.
Q: When you create fashions, what’s your objective?
A: To fill in the holes of things I want in my wardrobe, that I can’t find. Do things that are really well made and look expensive but are inexpensive to buy and are comfortable.
Q: You’re like one of the most perfect specimens of a woman. ...
A: Oh, [very softly] Jesus.
Q: You don’t think so? You don’t need to do anything to yourself — you know, those things women do to themselves in Hollywood?
A: Oh, please. [She throws back her head.] There’s always stuff to do. Again, I am lucky to be 54 years old and still doing what I love and having a career. That is a fortunate thing. I’ve been able to have longevity, in many different areas whether it’s recording and performing and television and film. I definitely count my blessings, but I also know that I’m well prepared. When I show up, I know my stuff. I’m reliable and accountable. I think that’s one of the reasons you continually get hired. I was lucky to have parents who kept me grounded, understood my gifts, but said, “If you want to do this, you’ve got to get educated.” I majored in musical theater, I danced my whole life, and sang and played piano and learned to act and had training in all the areas I can expand on, so when I’m asked to do something, I am prepared.
Q: Do you have a Hollywood harassment horror story?
A: No [Harvey] Weinstein story here, thank God. Although Rob Marshall, who directed “Chicago,” had done “Kiss of the Spider Woman” with me and when he got to direct the movie “Chicago” wanted me to play Roxie, but Weinstein shot him down, so that’s my only Weinstein story. Wasn’t happy he didn’t select me. [I wiped my brow and said, “Whew.”] Exactly. That is it.
Q: You were a challenging teenager from what I read in the book.
A: [Half eye-roll and big smile.] Ah-ha, according to my mother, yes.
Q: You’re very intelligent. Do you know why you were such a challenging teenager?
A: Well, I think my mother has a lot of fire. I think fire was matching fire. I think that’s why I became so strong, so assertive. I think it was ... having an adventurous nature. I love to ski, drive fast cars and the thrill of exciting things, where my mother is not that way. I think ... matching her energy and then my adventurous spirit was a fiery combination.
Q: What in the world were “The Good Wife” writers thinking to pair you with Eli Gold? You are not in his league. You should have been having an affair with Peter Florrick, not that I’m promoting cheating.
A: I guess they needed somebody for Eli. It was the last season and Alan [Cumming] is a great guy and has a theater background, and I went on a three-episode arc.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.