Vanessa Williams’ aspirations never included becoming a beauty queen.
That’s one of the many revealing tidbits from her book “You Have No Idea,” which she co-wrote with her mother. We chatted about the book at the headquarters of Evine, an Eden Prairie-based cable shopping network, where she was promoting her V. by Vanessa Williams designs.
Beauty queen personalities often annoy me, but every now and then there’s an impressive person underneath it. Such is the case of the thoughtful, funny multitalented Williams — an actor, singer, musician, dancer and now designer.
The first black Miss America smiled when I described her as the accidental beauty queen. I told her that I think it’s a bad idea for black people in America to encourage daughters to believe they can be beauty queens when what they should do is work on their brains, as Williams’ parents insisted.
“Right,” said Williams. You entered the Miss America pageant because you needed scholarship money? “Yeah, exactly.”
According to the book, her friends were rather shocked Williams, who had the talents that surpassed her looks, was pursuing the Miss America crown because they knew about her obstinate personality.
This is Part 2 of my interview with Williams and here’s the video https://tinyurl.com/y7yg8eaf where my description of “Save the Best for Last” caught Williams off guard.
Q: Because you were such a mischievous teenager, could you see your kids thinking of doing something ill-advised?
A: I am so lucky my kids are nothing like me at all. [Smiles and long laughs.] How they were raised was much different than I was raised. They have traveled all over the place, have experienced a couple of [my] divorces, even though I tried to stay consistent with them having music education, having to play an instrument until they graduated, trying to stay in one place at one time going through the school system. … They did have some sense of solidity.
Q: So you didn’t get a “daring child,” which is how you were described in the book.
A: No, no, no. They’re all kind of daredevils … physically. They are not as defiant as I was for sure. My son skis double black diamond slopes. He’s probably [closest to me] in terms of pushing the envelope. I love to ski and drive fast cars and the thrill of exciting things. He wants to buy a motorcycle so that’ll be happening soon. So he’s had that need for speed.
Q: You mentioned a couple divorces. I notice that women marry the same man in different packaging. Is there any characteristic consistent in all three of your husbands?
A: Hmm. Wow. Well I think all three of them are good looking. That’s one. [Smile]
Q: There’s nothing wrong with your eyesight. ...
A: [Laugh] Nothing wrong with the eyesight. I think all [are] creative and pretty open minded. But that’s probably it. [Smiles and laughs.]
Q: I loved the part in the book where your mom, Helen Williams, talks about thwacking former NBAer Rick Fox upside the head when you guys called her over to disclose the divorce. She’s a very strong personality who will just say things like “I can’t stand [journalist and commentator] Tony Brown” — who may have had an issue with you not being all that black in skin tone. Did you get that aspect of your mother’s personality?
A: My mother harbors resentment and then doesn’t let it go. [Smiles.] That’s the negative part of that and the unhealthy part. I’ll get mad but then I’ll let it go. It’s not worth stewing over for the rest of your life. You’ve got to move on and let it go. But my mom [big smile] never forgets. [Laughter.]
Q: Your song “Save the Best for Last,” is the most beautifully constructed, lyrically perfect love song to a stupid man ever recorded.
A: [Sustained laughs.] That’s funny.
Q: Think about it.
A: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, I’ve had many people come up to me as couples and say, “Your song got us back together,” “This was our wedding song.” So it has meant something to many a couple. [Big smile.]
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on FOX 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject.