Vanessa Lynn Williams (born March 18, 1963), known professionally as Vanessa L. Williams or Vanessa Williams, is an American singer, actress, producer and former fashion model. In 1983, she became the first African-American woman crowned Miss America, but a scandal arose when Penthouse magazine bought and published nude photographs of her. She relinquished her title early and was succeeded by the first runner-up, Suzette Charles of New Jersey. Williams rebounded by launching a career as an entertainer, earning multiple Grammy,Emmy, and Tony Award nominations. She is arguably the most successful Miss America winner in the field of entertainment.
Williams released her debut album The Right Stuff in 1988, which spawned the hits "The Right Stuff", a No. 1 on Hot Dance Songs, and "Dreamin'" a No. 1 on R&B and No. 8 on BillboardHot 100. Her second studio album The Comfort Zone in 1991 topped the Billboard R&B Album Chart, which spawned the Billboard Hot 100 number-one hit "Save the Best for Last". In 1994 she debuted on Broadway in the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman. In 1995 she recorded "Colors of the Wind", the Oscar-winner for Best Original Song from the Disney animated feature film Pocahontas, which reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Williams's first major film role was as the star of the feature film Eraser in 1996. She also starred in the movies Soul Food, Dance with Me, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, Shaft andJohnson Family Vacation. From 2006 to 2010, she played the role of the scheming, self-absorbed diva and former supermodel Wilhelmina Slater in the ABC comedy series Ugly Betty, for which she received three Emmy Awards nominations. In 2009, Williams released her eighth studio album, The Real Thing. From 2010 to 2012, she starred in Desperate Housewives as spoiled rich woman Renee Perry. She starred in the supernatural drama series 666 Park Avenue in 2012.
- 2 Pageants and Miss America title
- 3 Music career
- 4 Acting career
- 5 Personal life
- 6 Discography
- 7 Filmography
- 8 Awards and accolades
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Williams was born in Millwood, New York, the daughter of music teachers Helen L. (née Tinch) and Milton Augustine Williams, Jr. A DNA test revealed that her ancestry is 23% from Ghana, 17% from the British Isles, 15% from Cameroon, 12% Finnish, 11% Southern European, 7% Togo, 6% Benin, 5% Senegal and 4% Portuguese. Williams and her younger brother Chris, who is also an actor, grew up in Millwood, a predominantly white middle-class suburban area of New York City. Prophetically, her parents put on her birth announcement: "Here she is: Miss America."
Williams studied piano and French horn growing up, but was most interested in singing and songwriting. She graduated in 1981 from Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, received a scholarship and attended Syracuse Universityas a Musical Theatre Arts major from 1981 to 1983. She interrupted her education at Syracuse during her sophomore year to fulfill her duties as Miss America, and subsequently left the university to focus on her entertainment career. Twenty-five years later, she graduated from Syracuse by earning her remaining college credits through her life experience. Williams delivered the convocation address on May 10, 2008, to 480 other students in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. She stated:
It's been 25 years since I was a student here. It just brought home what my message was, which is cherish the moment; these days are irreplaceable and are the beginning of the rest of your life.
Williams competed in the Miss Syracuse (University) beauty pageant when a campus musical she was in was canceled in 1983. After winning the Miss Syracuse title, Williams won the Miss New York crown in 1983, and went to compete for the Miss America title at the national pageant in Atlantic City. Prior to the final night of competition, Williams won both Preliminary competitions – Talent and Swimsuit – earlier in the week (note: each day's Preliminary competitions have winners announced; therefore there can be as many as six "Prelim" winners; three each for Talent and Swimsuit. To win a "prelim" in both is a strong precursor to success in the finals.) She was crowned Miss America 1984 on September 17, 1983, becoming the first African American to win the title. Williams' reign as Miss America was not without its challenges and controversies. For the first time in pageant history, a reigning Miss America was the target of death threats and hate mail.
Ten months into her reign as Miss America, she received an anonymous phone call stating that nude photos of her taken before her pageant days had surfaced. Williams believed the photographs were private and had been destroyed; she claims she never signed a release permitting the photos to be used.
The genesis of the black-and-white photos dated back to 1982 (the year before she won the Miss America Pageant), when she worked as an assistant and makeup artist for Mount Kisco, New York photographer Tom Chiapel. According to Williams, Chiapel advised her that he wanted to try a "new concept of silhouettes with two models". He photographed Williams and another woman in several nude poses.
Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy, was initially offered the photos, but turned them down. Later, Hefner would explain why in People Weekly, "Vanessa Williams is a beautiful woman. There was never any question of our interest in the photos. But they clearly weren't authorized and because they would be the source of considerable embarrassment to her, we decided not to publish them. We were also mindful that she was the first black Miss America." Days later, Bob Guccione, the publisher of Penthouse, announced that his magazine would publish the photos in their September 1984 15th anniversary issue, which was the same issue that featured nude photographs of Traci Lords, later found to have been only 15 years old at the time. The cover featured a photograph of a smiling Vanessa Williams with 88-year-old George Burns and the headline, Miss America, Oh, God, She's Nude! Guccione paid Chiapel for the rights to the photos without Williams' consent. According to the PBS documentary Miss America, Williams' issue of Penthouse would ultimately bring Guccione a $14 million windfall. After days of media frenzy and sponsors threatening to pull out of the upcoming 1985 pageant, Williams felt pressured by Miss America Pageant officials to resign, and did so in a press conference on July 23, 1984. The title subsequently went to the first runner-up, Suzette Charles, also an African American. On September 7, 1984, Williams filed a $500 million lawsuit against Chiapel and Guccione. She eventually dropped the suit a year later, explaining that she wanted to put the scandal behind her and move on.
Although she resigned from fulfilling the duties of a current Miss America, Williams was allowed to keep the bejeweled crown and scholarship money and is officially recognized by the Miss America Organization as "Miss America 1984"; Charles is recognized as "Miss America 1984-b".Vanessa L. Williams discography
Williams released her debut album, The Right Stuff in 1988. The first single, "The Right Stuff", found success on the R&B chart, while the second single, "He's Got the Look", found similar success on the same chart. The third single, "Dreamin'", was a pop hit, becoming Williams' first top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 8, and her first number one single on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The album reached gold status in the U.S. and earned her three Grammy Award nominations, including one for Best New Artist.
Her second album The Comfort Zone became the biggest success in her music career. The lead single "Running Back to You" reached top twenty on the Hot 100, and the top position of Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart on October 5, 1991. Other singles included "The Comfort Zone" (#2 R&B), "Just for Tonight" (#26 Pop), a cover of The Isley Brothers' "Work to Do" (#3 R&B), and the club-only hit "Freedom Dance (Get Free!)." The most successful single from the album, as well as her biggest hit to date, is "Save the Best for Last". It reached No. 1 in the United States, where it remained for five weeks, as well as No. 1 in Australia, the Netherlands, and Canada, and was in the top 5 in Japan, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The album sold 2.2 million copies in the U.S. at its time of release and has since been certified triple platinum in the United States by the RIAA, gold in Canada by the CRIA, and platinum in the United Kingdom by the BPI. The Comfort Zone earned Williams five Grammy Award nominations. The Sweetest Days, her third album, was released in 1994 to highly-favorable reviews. The album saw Williams branch out and sample other styles of music that included jazz, hip hop, rock, and Latin-themed recordings such as "Betcha Never" and "You Can't Run", both written and produced by Babyface. Other singles from the album included the adult-contemporary and dance hit "The Way That You Love" and the title track "The Sweetest Days". The album was certified platinum in the U.S. by the RIAA and earned her two Grammy Award nominations.
Other releases include two Christmas albums, Star Bright, released in 1996, and Silver & Gold in 2004; Next in 1997, and Everlasting Love in 2005, along with a greatest-hits compilation released in 1998, and a host of other compilations released over the years. Notable chart performances from subsequent albums, motion picture and television soundtracks have included the songs "Love Is", which was a duet with Brian McKnight, the Golden Globe- and Academy Award-winning "Colors of the Wind", "Where Do We Go from Here?", and "Oh How the Years Go By". In total, Williams has sold more than six million records and has received 15 Grammy Award nominations. In May 2009 she performed two concerts at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City to sold out crowds. On June 2, 2009, she released her eighth studio album on Concord Records titled The Real Thing. It features songs written and/or produced by Babyface, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Bebel Gilberto, and Rex Rideout. Williams described the album as "a hybrid of samba, bossa nova, some salsa and also some pop and R&B". The title song "The Real Thing", the fourth single released from the album, peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart.
Williams broadened her ascendant music career into a theatrical role when she was cast in the Broadway production of Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1994. She was also featured in theTony-nominated and Drama Desk Award nominated performance as the Witch in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods in a revival of the show in 2002, which included songs revised for her.
Other notable theatrical roles include her performances in Carmen Jones at the Kennedy Center, the off-Broadway productions of One Man Band and Checkmates, and the New York City Center's Encores! Great American Musicals in Concert, St. Louis Woman. In 2010, Williams starred in a new Broadway musical revue entitled Sondheim on Sondheim, a look at Stephen Sondheim through his music, film and videotaped interviews. Sondheim ran from March 19 to June 13 at Studio 54 in New York City. As of April 26, 2013, Williams will be starring as Jessie Mae Watts in the Horton Foote play The Trip to Bountiful. Based on the 1985 movie of the same name, this production is scheduled to run from April 26 to July 7, 2013, at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre in New York City.
Williams has appeared in several feature films. Her most prominent role was in the 1997 film Soul Food, for which she won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. Williams appeared in the 1991 cult classic film Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man. She also co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie Eraser and opposite Chayannein Dance with Me.
In 2007, Williams returned to the big screen starring in two independent motion pictures, the first being My Brother, for which she won Best Actress honors at the Harlem International Film Festival, the African-American Women in Cinema Film Festival and at the Santa Barbara African Heritage Film Festival, and the second being And Then Came Love. In 2009, she starred alongside Miley Cyrus in Hannah Montana: The Movie. Williams stars as Janice in the movie Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor'.
Williams' first television appearance was on a 1984 episode of The Love Boat, playing herself. She subsequently made guest appearances on a number of shows, including T.J. Hooker, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saturday Night Live, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, LateLine, MADtv, Ally McBeal and Boomtown.
Her appearances in television movies and miniseries include Perry Mason: The Case of the Silenced Singer and The Jacksons: An American Dream as Suzanne de Passe. In 1995, Williams starred as Rose Alvares in a television version of Bye Bye Birdie, a Broadway musical from the 1950s. She played the nymph Calypso in the 1997 Hallmark Entertainment miniseries The Odyssey, starring Armand Assante. She appeared as Ebony Scrooge the Ebenezer Scrooge character in an update of Charles Dickens' story A Christmas Carol called A Diva's Christmas Carol. In 2001, Williams starred in the Lifetime cable movie about the life of Henriette DeLille, The Courage to Love. In 2003, Williams read the narrative of Tempie Herndon Durham from the WPA slave narratives in the HBO documentary Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives. In early 2006 she starred in the short-lived UPN drama South Beach. In 2006, Williams received considerable media attention for her comic/villainess role as former model/magazine creative director turned editor-in-chief Wilhelmina Slater in the ABC comedy series Ugly Betty. Her performance on the series resulted in a nomination for outstanding supporting actress at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards. She also provides the voice for the main character in the PBS Kids version of Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies. In 2008 and 2009, she was again nominated for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for Ugly Betty.A designer works on his creation for "The Heart Truth's" Red Dress Collection 2004 (Williams modeled the dress).
Williams joined the cast of Desperate Housewives for the seventh season. Williams portrays Renee Perry, an old college friend/rival of Lynette Scavo (Felicity Huffman), as the new vixen on Wisteria Lane, moving into the late Edie Britt's old house. In 2012 she began starring in the ABC supernatural drama series 666 Park Avenue.
Williams has appeared in advertisements for RadioShack. She is a spokesmodel for Proactiv Solution, and was the first African-American spokesmodel for L'Oréal cosmetics in the late 1990s. Her other media appearances include endorsing Crest Rejuvenating Effects Toothpaste, endorsing Disneyland and Universal Studios in a VisitCalifornia advertisement for British and Irish television in 2008, and hosting the 6th Annual 2008 TV Land Awards show.
She appeared on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in 2000 as a contestant, and once again on August 10, 2009, as a celebrity guest during the show's 10th anniversary prime-time special editions, winning $50,000 for her charity. In a commercial that began running during Super Bowl XLVI in 2012, Williams voiced the new character Ms. Brown, a brown M&M.
Williams is most often referenced and publicly recognized simply as "Vanessa Williams". There is, however, occasional confusion with similarly named actress Vanessa A. Williams, who is just two months younger. It has been reported that Williams first became aware of Vanessa A. in the 1980s when her New York University registrar told her that another, similarly aged student with the same name and from the same state had applied. When Williams appeared as Miss America in a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Vanessa A. accidentally received her check for the appearance, which she returned.
In the area of acting, the two ran into name conflict when Screen Actors Guild rules prohibited duplicate stage naming. Vanessa A. had registered the name "Vanessa Williams" first, so as a compromise, Williams was occasionally credited as "Vanessa L. Williams" in acting credits. To compound the confusion, both actresses starred in versions of the drama Soul Food (Williams in the film version, and Vanessa A. in its TV series adaptation). The Screen Actors Guild eventually took the issue to arbitration and decided that both actresses could use the professional name "Vanessa Williams". Today, Williams' prominence has led to a more prevailing association with the stage name "Vanessa Williams", so much so that it has widely become solely attributable to her. She is credited as such in the American television series Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives. Williams is also the owner of the internet domain name vanessawilliams.com. Today, the younger Vanessa Williams is most often publicly and professionally referenced as "Vanessa A. Williams".
She has been married twice. Her first marriage, to public relations consultant Ramon Hervey II, was from 1987 to 1997. Hervey later became Williams' manager. The couple had two daughters, Melanie (born June 30, 1987) and Jillian (born June 19, 1989), and one son, Devin (born April 14, 1993). William's daughter Jillian, following in her mother's footsteps, released her first single with the duo Lion Babe in 2012.
Her second marriage was to NBA basketball player Rick Fox. They married in September 1999 and have a daughter, Sasha, born on May 1, 2000. After The National Enquirer published pictures of Fox kissing and hugging another woman in mid-2004, Fox's representative announced that the couple had been "headed toward divorce" for over a year. A few months later in August 2004, Fox filed for divorce. Fox acted alongside Williams in two episodes during the second season of Ugly Betty, playing the role of Dwayne, Wilhelmina's sexy bodyguard.
During an interview with Barbara Walters which aired on February 24, 2008, Williams not only admitted to using Botox but also called it "a miracle drug, no cutting, nothing, and I love it. But I also want to act so I don't do it to freeze my face." Williams is a practicing Roman Catholic. Williams and her mother, Helen, co-authored a memoir entitled You Have No Idea, published in April 2012. In the book, Williams discusses her childhood, rise to fame, and personal struggles, including the fact that she was sexually molested by a woman when she was 10 years old. She also spoke candidly about her decision to have an abortion as a teenager. Williams is a supporter of gay rights and same sex marriage and in 2011, she participated in a HRC campaign entitled “New Yorkers for Marriage Equality".
- The Comfort Zone (1991)
- The Sweetest Days (1994)
- Star Bright (1996)
- Next (1997)
- Silver & Gold (2004)
- Everlasting Love (2005)
- The Real Thing (2009)
|1987||The Pick-up Artist||Rae, Girl with Dog|
|1988||Under the Gun||Samantha Richards|
|1991||Another You||Gloria||Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor's final film pairing.|
|Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man||Lulu Daniels|
|1996||Eraser||Dr. Lee Cullen||Nominated — Blockbuster Entertainment Award|
|Soul Food||Teri||Image Award
Nominated — American Black Film Festival Black Film Award
|1998||Dance with Me||Ruby Sinclair||Nominated — ALMA Award|
|1999||The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland||Queen of Trash|
|Light It Up||Detective Audrey McDonald||Nominated – Image Award|
|2000||Shaft||Carmen Vasquez||Nominated – Image Award|
|2004||Johnson Family Vacation||Dorothy Johnson||Nominated — BET Award for Comedy|
|2007||My Brother||L'Tisha Morton||Best Actress honors at the Harlem International Film Festival, the African-American Women in Cinema Film Festival and at the Santa Barbara African Heritage Film Festival|
|And Then Came Love||Julie Davidson|
|2009||Hannah Montana: The Movie||Vita (Hannah's Agent)|
|2011||Delhi Safari||Beggum the Leopard||voice: English version|
|2012||He's Way More Famous Than You||Vanessa Williams|
|2013||Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor||Janice|
|1984||Partners in Crime||Roselle Robins||"Celebrity" (Season 1, Episode 1)|
|1986||The Redd Foxx Show||Jessica||"The Prodigal Son" (Season 1, Episode 8)|
|T.J. Hooker||Pat Williamson||"Partners in Death" (Season 5, Episode 14)|
|The Love Boat||Pearl||"My Stepmother, Myself/Almost Roommates/Cornerback Sneak" (Season 9, Episode 24)|
|1989||Full Exposure: The Sex Tapes Scandal||Valantine||TV movie|
|1990||The Kid Who Loved Christmas||Lynette||TV movie|
|Perry Mason and the Case of the Silenced Singer||Terri Knight||TV movie|
|1992||The Jacksons - An American Dream||Suzanne de Passe||TV movie|
|Stompin' at the Savoy||Pauline||TV movie|
|The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air||Danny Mitchell||"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Home from the Forum" (Season 3, Episode 11)|
|1995||Nothing Lasts Forever||Dr. Kathy "Kat" Hunter||TV movie|
|Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child||Beauty (voice)||"Beauty and the Beast" (Season 1, Episode 11)|
|Bye Bye Birdie||Rose Alvarez||TV movie|
|1996||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine||Arandis||"Let He Who Is Without Sin..." (Season 5, Episode 7)|
|1997||The Odyssey||Calypso||Main role|
|1998||Futuresport||Alex Torres||TV movie|
|1999||L.A. Doctors||Dr. Leanne Barrows||"O Captain, My Captain" (Season 1, Episode 21)
"Que Sera, Sarah" (Season 1, Episode 22) Every Picture Tells a Story" (Season 1, Episode 23)
|2000||The Courage to Love||Henriette DeLille||TV movie|
|Don Quixote||Dulcinea/Aldonza||TV movie|
|A Diva's Christmas Carol||Ebony Scrooge||TV movie|
|2001||WW3||M.J. Blake||TV movie|
|Santa Baby||Alicia (voice)||TV movie|
|2002||Keep the Faith, Baby||Hazel Scott||TV movie|
|Ally McBeal||Sheila Hunt||"Another One Bites the Dust" (Season 5, Episode 19)|
|The Proud Family||Debra (voice)||"Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thingy, Baby" (Season 2, Episode 3)|
|2003||Boomtown||Detective Katherine Pierce||"The Love of Money" (Season 2, Episode 1)
"Inadmissible" (Season 2, Episode 2) "Wannabe" (Season 2, Episode 3) "The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang" (Season 2, Episode 4) "Haystack" (Season 2, Episode 5) "The Big Picture" 9 (Season 2, Episode 6)
|2006||South Beach||Elizabeth Bauer||Series Regular, 8 episodes|
|2006–10||Ugly Betty||Wilhelmina Slater||Series Regular, 85 episodes
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (2007, 2008) Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (2007) Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (2007, 2008, 2009) Nominated – Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (2006, 2009) Nominated – Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series (2007)
|2007–08||Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies||Mama Mirabelle||Animated; Voice; 23 episodes|
|2010–12||Desperate Housewives||Renee Perry||Series Regular (Seasons 7–8); 46 episodes|
|2012–13||666 Park Avenue||Olivia Doran||Series Regular|
|2012||Phineas and Ferb||Stewardess||Animated; voice; Where's Perry (Part 1)|
|1985||One Man Band|
|1994–95||Kiss of the Spider Woman|
|1998||St. Louis Woman|
|2000||A Diva's Christmas Carol|
|Into the Woods|
|2010||Sondheim on Sondheim|
|2013||The Trip to Bountiful|
|1994||The Essence Awards|
|Carnegie Hall Salutes the Jazz Masters: Verve Records at 50|
|1998||29th NAACP Image Awards|
|2002||It's Black Entertainment|
|2008||The 6th Annual TV Land Awards|
|2009||The 36th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards|
|Dreams Come True: A Celebration of Disney Animation|
|1989||Best New Artist||Vanessa L. Williams||Nominated|
|Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||"The Right Stuff"||Nominated|
|1990||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||"Dreamin'"||Nominated|
|1992||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||"Runnin' Back to You"||Nominated|
|1993||Record of the Year||"Save the Best for Last"||Nominated|
|Best Female Pop Vocal Performance||"Save the Best for Last"||Nominated|
|Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||"The Comfort Zone"||Nominated|
|Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals||"Love Is"||Nominated|
|1995||Best Female Pop Vocal Performance||"Colors of the Wind"||Nominated|
|Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||"The Way That You Love"||Nominated|
|1997||Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album||Star Bright||Nominated|
- Williams has featured on three albums nominated for the Grammy for Best Musical Show Album, these nominations being credited to the respective producers, engineers and composers and not to the artists.
- "Save the Best for Last" was also nominated for Song of the Year. As this award only goes to the songwriters, Williams was not nominated. The composers were Wendy Waldman, Jon Lind and Phil Galdstone.
- Williams' recording of "You Can't Run" was nominated for the Grammy for Best R&B Song. As this is a songwriters award the nomination went to the song's composer, Babyface.
|Year||Award body||Category||Awarded for||Result|
|1989||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding New Artist||"The Right Stuff"||Won|
|1993||American Music Award||Favorite Female Artist – Pop / Rock||"The Comfort Zone"||Nominated|
|Favorite Female Artist – Soul / R&B||"The Comfort Zone"||Nominated|
|Favorite Album – Adult Contemporary||"The Comfort Zone"||Nominated|
|MTV Video Music Awards||Best Female Video||"Save the Best for Last"||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||"Runnin' Back to You"||Nominated|
|Billboard Music Award||No. 1 Adult Contemporary Single||"Love Is"||Won|
|Playboy Magazine||Best Female R&B Vocalist.||"The Comfort Zone"||Won|
|1994||Theatre World Award||Best Debut Performance||"Kiss of the Spider Woman"||Won|
|NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Female Artist||"The Sweetest Days"||Won|
|Soul Train Music Award||Best R&B Single by Group, Band or Duo||"Love Is"||Nominated|
|1996||Soul Train Music Award||"Lady of Soul" Award||Career Achievement||Won|
|NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Female Artist||"Where Do We Go From Here"||Nominated|
|Blockbuster Entertainment Award||Favorite Actress – Action||Eraser||Nominated|
|Lena Horne award||For Outstanding Artistic Contribution to the Entertainment||Won|
|1997||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture||Soul Food||Won|
|Outstanding Actress in Mini-Series||The Odyssey||Nominated|
|Online Television Academy Awards||Best Guest Actress – Syndicated Series||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine||Nominated|
|Black Film Awards||Best Actress – Motion Picture||Soul Food||Nominated|
|1999||ALMA Award||Best Song from A Movie||"You Are My Home"||Nominated|
|2000||Blockbuster Entertainment Award||Favorite Actress – Action||Shaft||Nominated|
|NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture||Light It Up||Nominated|
|Drama League Award||Most Distinguished Performance||Into the Woods||Nominated|
|2002||Satellite Awards||Best Actress – Miniseries or Movie||Keep the Faith, Baby||Won|
|NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Actress in Mini-Series||Nominated|
|Black Reel Awards||Best Actress||Nominated|
|Tony Award||Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Into the Woods||Nominated|
|2004||BET Comedy Awards||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Box Office Movie||Johnson Family Vacation||Nominated|
|2006||Satellite Awards||Best Supporting Actress in a Series||Ugly Betty||Nominated|
|2007||Screen Actors Guild Awards||Best Performance – Ensemble in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Won|
|Emmy Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice TV Villain||Won|
|Hollywood Walk of Fame||Recording||Career Achievement||Won|
|2008||Human Rights Campaign||"Ally for Equality" Award||Humanitarian Work||Won|
|Jacobi Children's Arts Award||"Humanitarian/Charitable"||Won|
|Satellite Awards||Best Supporting Actress in a Series||Ugly Betty||Won|
|Screen Actors Guild Awards||Best Performance – Ensemble in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Best Performance – Lead Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice TV Villain||Nominated|
|Emmy Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|2009||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program||Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies||Nominated|
|Emmy Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Ugly Betty||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||Best Supporting Actress in a Series||Nominated|
|2010||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series||Nominated|
|Outstanding Jazz Album||The Real Thing||Nominated|
|Mary Pickford Award||For Outstanding Artistic Contribution to the Entertainment Industry||Won|
|2011||NAACP Image Award||Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series||Desperate Housewives||Won|
|Satellite Awards||Best Supporting Actress in a TV Series, Mini Series or TV Movie||Desperate Housewives||Won|
- The song "Colors of the Wind", performed by Vanessa Williams at the end of the film Pocahontas, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. This award goes to the songs composers (Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz).The song was performed in the film by Judy Kuhn as the singing voice of the title character.