Courtesy of Vanessa Williams
  • Vanessa Williams at 50: Through The Years

    Singer-actress Vanessa Williams attends the M&M's Better With M Party at The Foundry Jan. 31, 2013, in New Orleans.
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  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    Superstar Vanessa Williams and her mother, Helen Williams, co-wrote a candid memoir called "You Have No Idea," in which the "Desperate Housewives" actress claims she was molested at age 10 by an older girl and had an abortion in high school. Shown here is an undated family portrait, with Vanessa, her brother, Chris, mother Helen and father Milton.
    Courtesy of Vanessa Williams
  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    Born in Tarrytown, N.Y., Vanessa Williams grew up in New Castle, N.Y., and always loved performing dance and piano. "'Let's put on a show' was something you were sure to hear if you were a dinner guest at the Williamses' house," Williams wrote in her memoir, "You Have No Idea."
    Courtesy of Vanessa Williams
  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    Vanessa Williams starred in multiple community theater productions in high school, including, "Once Upon a Mattress," "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" and "Of Thee I Sing."
    Courtesy of Vanessa Williams
  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    But Vanessa Williams went down a rebellious path, which she attributed to being molested at age 10. In high school, she smoked marijuana, got pregnant with her boyfriend Bruce Hanson and had an abortion. "I think I was highly sexualized at 10 years old," Williams told "Nightline," referring to the incident. "I knew that it wasn't right, because I wasn't supposed to tell anybody."
    Courtesy of Vanessa Williams
  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    In college, Vanessa Williams competed in beauty pageants and was crowned Miss America in 1983. She was the first black woman to win the title. The racist backlash she received over her victory was so intense, Williams told "Nightline," that at times sharpshooters were stationed on buildings she was visiting for her protection. She said she also received numerous death threats.
    AP Photo
  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    After nude photos of her surfaced in Penthouse magazine, Vanessa Williams announced she was resigning her Miss America title at a news conference July 23, 1984, in New York City. She was 19. "Miss America -- having a beauty queen title negated everything that I had done up into 20 years," Williams told "Nightline." "I regretted being labeled. It's so easy to be put in a box."
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  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    Vanessa Williams married her first husband, Ramon Hervey II, in 1987. This photo was taken on their wedding day. Hervey became her manager when she launched her career as a recording artist in 1988, and then later when she starred on Broadway. The couple had three children together, Melanie, 24, Jillian, 22, and Devin, 19.
    Courtesy of Vanessa Williams
  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    Vanessa Williams was almost cast to play the role of Jane Toussaint in Spike Lee's "School Daze" (1988). She didn't because she was pregnant with Melanie. At the time, Williams had launched a successful singing career. She earned wide acclaim with her debut album, "The Right Stuff" (1988) as well the ones that followed: "The Comfort Zone" (1991) and "The Sweetest Days" (1994).
    Courtesy of Vanessa Williams
  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    Since she was a little girl, Vanessa Williams dreamed of being on Broadway. The former musical theater major made her Broadway debut in "Kiss of the Spider Woman" in 1994. Her son Devin was 2 years old and in her memoir, "You Have No Idea," Williams wrote about going home to breast-feed him after playing a glamorous diva on stage.
    Courtesy of Vanessa Williams
  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    Vanessa Williams has also appeared in several movies. She was cast alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1996 action-thriller "Eraser." Williams wrote in her memoir that auditioning for the role caused more tension between her and then-husband and manager Ramon Hervey. "As my husband, he should have understood. But as my manager, he was furious," she wrote. The couple divorced in 1997.
    Warner Bros./Kobal Collection
  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    Vanessa Williams married former NBA basketball star Rick Fox in 1999 and the couple had their daughter, Sasha, in 2000. But Williams and Fox filed for divorce in 2004.
    Courtesy of Vanessa Williams
  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    Vanessa Williams landed her first television role in 1984 on an episode of "Love Boat," and went on to make several other TV appearances. In 2006, Williams landed the role of Wilhelmina Slater on the comedy TV series "Ugly Betty." Her portrayal as the evil magazine editor-in-chief earned her several Emmy nominations.
    Mitch Haddad/ABC
  • Vanessa L. Williams: Through The Years

    Vanessa Williams joined the cast of the ABC TV series "Desperate Housewives" in 2010 for the show's last two seasons, playing the role of Renee Perry. In her memoir, Williams wrote that she talked with show creator Marc Cherry about creating her character. "Renee Perry was born one May day in the downstairs restaurant at the Essex House in between theater chat," Williams wrote.
    Danny Feld/ABC
  • Vanessa Williams: Through The Years

    An R&B recording artist, a producer, dancer, pageant queen, Broadway baby, TV and film star, Vanessa Williams has re-invented herself many times over. Here at age 49, with her oldest kids in college, Williams reflected on her career. "I've learned to embrace my past. I fought it for a long time," she told "Nightline."
    Brian To/FilmMagic/Getty Images
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