The Grace, Beauty and Grit of Vanessa Williams

Allison Kugel | 11/15/2019, 8:30 a.m.
Vanessa Williams is a creature unlike any other. It's as though she came here to impart the ins and outs ...

Vanessa Williams is a creature unlike any other. It's as though she came here to impart the ins and outs of living life on one's own terms. From unwitting societal lightning rod during the 1980s to multi-platinum selling recording artist; and Broadway, film and television star, Vanessa Williams slayed the male-dominated Hollywood dragon long before the #MeToo movement happened. You can tell from talking to her that, both, the scars of past judgment she endured, and the fruits of her sweet success have made their impact. Both created indelible imprints.

In more recent years, Williams stunned audiences with sultry scene-stealing characters on hit series like Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty. Her recent film starring Orange is the New Black's Uzo Aduba, Miss Virginia, tackles the socio-economic and educational inequities that urban students of color endure, showcasing a more socially conscious film portrayal.

Vanessa Williams' exotic beauty strikes you dead on arrival, but Williams does not lead with her looks. She prefers to enter a conversation with intellect, boldness and strength.

Williams is now preparing to take her Broadway-honed stage skills across the pond to London's West End, where she will be starring in a production of City of Angels, opening at the Garrick Theatre in 2020. She's also added fashion designer to her packed resume, launching the sexy and sophisticated Vanessa Williams collection for HSN, and fresh on the heels of a multi-album deal with BMG, Williams is working on new music to reflect a collection of musical genres she is currently passionate about.

A renaissance woman for the ages, Vanessa Williams' life is nothing if not purposeful.

Allison Kugel: Something told me to read your 2012 memoir, You Have No Idea, which I read cover to cover yesterday. I'm so glad I read your book, because it was the missing piece to really understanding you. The one constant theme throughout your life, it seems, is that you are a natural born rebel!

Vanessa Williams: (Laughs) Yeah.

Allison Kugel: That quality plays out in one way when we're young, but changes as we get older. How do you express that side of yourself now?

Vanessa Williams: It's now about being unafraid to take chances. In terms of my career, I just signed on to do City of Angels on the West End [of London]. It’s not a lot of money, but it is an opportunity to work on the West End. It's always been a dream of mine to live overseas, and to study in London. I'll be working at the Garrick Theatre. We start rehearsals in January, we open in March, and the show will be running until the end of July. There are no guarantees, in terms of leaving my life in the states behind, but it's something that excites me. At this stage of my life it's all about asking myself what I want to do that I've never done. The challenge of it excites me, and doing the same thing bores me.