When Vanessa Williams took the stage to kick off a six-night stand at a Manhattan cabaret club 54 Below on tuesday night he gets the sweetest revenge.
A few years before he became a Grammy, Tony and Emmy The candidate, a minor, was escorted back out of the venue, where he dressed upstairs at the iconic disco, Studio 54.
“I tried to get in once and was denied,” Williams, 59, told The Post. “It must have been 1979 and I was in high school. I went with my boyfriend at the time, Joe, and I was wearing a chocolate brown satin suit. We waited and waited, didn’t get selected, turned around and went back to Westchester. .
And now the New York native is the one making other people walk through a velvet rope to see him perform hits like his No. 1 single. “Save the Best for Last” Broadway show tunes and of course some Christmas carols.
Williams is looking forward to celebrating with fans in such an intimate setting. “It’s so close to the audience … it’s like being in the living room on the weekend,” he said. “I had two Christmas albums [1996’s “Star Bright” and 2004’s “Silver & Gold”] people still say that’s how they start the season. So I bring you some Christmas cheer.
Williams has been captivating audiences for 40 years, since as Miss New York she became the first black Miss America in 1984, when she was a 20-year-old student at Syracuse University.
It’s still hard to fathom the historic achievement for Williams, whose vocal prowess was scored high by the judges at the talent contest. “I look back at my 20-year-old self and think, ‘Yeah, how did I do that?’ “, he said. “You’re in your 20s – you’re figuring out who you are as a person and taking a stand on world issues. It blows my mind.”
It was an even tougher test when Williams’ nude photos appeared in Penthouse magazine, forcing her to abdicate 10 months into her reign. Still, Williams became the most successful Miss America of all time, releasing hit albums like her 1988 debut. “The Right Thing” – has won a gold medal and earned three Grammy nominations, and has worked in film (“The Secret,” “Soul Food”), stage (“Kiss of the Spider-Woman,” “Into the Jungle”) and television (” Spider-Woman”) became a conquering triple threat actress (“Ugly Betty”, “Desperate Housewives”).
And in 2015, she reconciled with the Miss America pageant, appeared as the chief judge and apologized to the organization during the show. “Honestly, it meant a lot to my mom,” said Williams, who defended her mother from racist attacks she received as the first black Miss America. “My parents kept a lot from me when I was on the road with death threats and all kinds of things.”
This year, Williams played the First Lady on Broadway in The POTUS, or Seven Women Behind Every Great Fool Trying to Keep Him Alive. And for one special appearance, he brought out the real-life FLOTUS — Hillary Clinton — in the audience.
“In the middle of my stage as First Lady when I talk about all my accomplishments, but [how] being president still wasn’t enough, everyone [in the audience] Hillary Clinton looked, stood up and started clapping and basically stopped the show for almost a minute,” he said.
After Roe v. Wade was overturned, the play’s reproductive rights message hit home for Williams, who had an abortion while in high school. “It’s a right my mother didn’t have when she was a teenager [years] … and it’s going backwards,” he said. “As a woman, you don’t want anyone to control your life because everyone’s situation is different and no one knows what’s going on but you.”
Now the mother of four and grandmother of one is preparing for a personal milestone when she turns 60 in February. So what’s her secret to maintaining American beauty after 40 years?
“Knowing where to get good Botox,” she said. “I don’t want to be like someone else.”