Vanessa Williams’ Miss America-nude photo scandal is being turned into a limited series from Sony Pictures.
On September 17, 1983, Vanessa Williams made history when she became the first Black woman crowned Miss America. However right before her reign was complete, on July 23, 1984, she also became the first queen in pageant history to give up her title.
She did so after immense pressure the organization put on her to resign due to controversy surrounding nude photos of her that Penthouse Magazine published without her consent.
In 1982, while working a summer job as a receptionist at a NY modeling agency, photographer Thomas Chiapel took the nude pictures of Williams. He assured her they’d be shot in silhouette and that she wouldn’t be recognizable.
However after Williams became Miss America, the photographer sold the pictures to Penthouse without her knowledge. And the summer of ’83, Penthouse magazine announced plans to publish nude photos of the beauty queen in its September issue.
She relinquished her titled and Miss New Jersey, Suzette Charles, the first runner-up (also a Black woman) assumed Williams’ tiara for the two months that remained of her reign.
Williams did pursue legal action against the magazine and photographer. However, she later dropped the lawsuits because at the time the photos were taken, she signed a model release form.
Thirty-two years later, in September 2015, when Williams served as head judge for the Miss America 2016 pageant, former Miss America CEO Sam Haskell made a public apology to her for the events of 1984.
The above mentioned Vanessa Williams’ Miss America/nude photo story will be the subject of a limited series after Sony Pictures Television has optioned rights to her story. Neil Meron is executive producing with Williams also on board with the project.
“This project is incredibly personal to me,” said Williams.
“There are so many inaccurate and untrue accounts of the events surrounding this period in my life, and as a mother, and as a Black woman, it is important to me that my truth be told and be documented from my perspective. This is not just a story about racy photos, it is about misogyny and racism and I want to shine a light on that for future generations. I was not only able to survive what could have been a career-ending scandal, but rose above it and have achieved a body of work I am extremely proud of.”
Since Vanessa Williams’ Miss America-nude photo scandal, she went on to flourish as an award-winning actress. Her credits include Broadway, movies, and television. She’s also a three-time Emmy, 11x Grammy, a Tony, three SAG award nominee. And she has received seven NAACP Image Awards.
Her acting credits include, Soul Food, Eraser, Ugly Betty, and much much more.
She also had a successful singing career and released a few albums. She sang the song, “Colors of the Wind,” from Disney’s Pocahontas. The song won the Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe for Best Original Song. And she is currently preparing to record a new album.
Zadan/Meron Productions’ Meron and Mark Nicholson will executive produce. They will do so alongisde Stephen Roseberry and Jon Carrasco of Encore Endeavor 1 (EE1), a wholly-owned subsidiary of kathy ireland Worldwide.
Top Hollywood attorney Martin Singer will also serve as executive producer. He has repped Williams for years and was instrumental in making the project come together. Steve Glick, EVP Content and Broadcasting for EE1, will also serve as producer.
Williams has been a client of SWC (Sterling Winters Company), a wholly owned subsidiary of kathy ireland Worldwide, for a long time. And she has collaborated with kiWW in different areas.
(Deadline first reported this news.)