Keep the Faith, Baby
Multitalented Vanessa L. Williams became a fifteen-time Grammy nominee for her enduring musical work that started back in 1988 with the debut album The Right Stuff. Since then, she has indulged her listeners with numerous songs, including her duet with Brian McKnight in “Love Is” (1993, became a Billboard Music’s Number One Adult Contemporary Single) and “Colors of the Wind” (1995, won a Grammy Award).
As for her acting career, Williams first gained praise in 1994 after superbly delivering her role in the musical “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (won a Theater World Award). The actress, who won an NAACP Image Award for her portrayal of Teri in Soul Food (1997) and a Golden Satellite Award for playing jazz singer Hazel Scott in Keep the Faith, Baby (2002, TV), was nominated for a Tony and Drama League thanks to her part in the Broadway staging of “Into The Woods” (2002).
Apart from her singing and acting career, she is a spokesperson for the skin care product Proactive Solution. Williams also does commercials for Radio Shack and Crest. The woman, with measurements 34B/C-24-34 (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine), attended Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Governor of California inauguration celebration and sang the National Anthem.
On a more private note, Williams was formerly married to Ramon Hervey (1987-1996) before having a relationship with screenwriter Christopher Salomine (Kip Salomine). She was then seeing Rick Fox, who was introduced to her by model Tyra Banks, and married him. The couple filed for divorce in 2004. Williams is also the mother of four, three daughters and a son.
Childhood and Family:
Born on May 12, 1963, in Tarrytown, New York, Vanessa Lynn Williams is the first child of music teachers Helen and Milton Williams. She is also the only sister of actor Christopher Williams.
Developing an interest in music, Vanessa had piano, French horn and vocal lessons. She later received a scholarship to the Syracuse University in New York, where she majored in Musical Theater. Vanessa, who is sometimes called “Van” or “Ness,” later dropped out and chose to enter show business by joining a beauty pageant.
In the course of her career, Vanessa married her manager Ramon Hervey Melanie in January 1987, but in 1996, the couple separated. They share three children, daughters Melanie (born in 1987) and Jillian (born in 1989) and son Devin (born in 1993). Three years after the separation, she exchanged wedding vows with L.A. Lakers player and actor Rick Fox (born on July 24, 1969), with whom she has a daughter named Sasha Gabriella Fox (born on May 1, 2000). Vanessa and Rick filed for divorce in August 2004.
“Success is the sweetest revenge.” Vanessa L. Williams
In 1983, Vanessa L. Williams left her studies and landed the Miss New York beauty title, which led to her being named Miss America the same year. However, she lost her title after her nude photographs were shown in the men magazine Penthouse.
Counteracting predictions about the end of her career, Williams moved to L.A. and quickly appeared on the small screen in an episode of the drama series “Partners in Crime” (1984, as Roselle Robins). After guest roles in “T.J. Hooker” (1986) and “The Love Boat” (1986), she acquired a supporting turn as Rae in the romantic comedy movie The Pick-up Artist (1987) and moved forward with leading parts in the action movies Under the Gun (1988) and Full Exposure: The Sex Tapes Scandal (1989, TV).
Meanwhile, Williams also displayed her vocal assets by releasing her debut album, The Right Stuff, in 1988. The gold album, which spawned a title single and chart-breaking songs like the top US R & B hit “Dreamin’” and Top 10 tracks “Darlin I” and “(He’s Got) The Look,” later earned three Grammy nominations. Furthermore, she also took home an NAACP Image for Best New Artist.
Williams was then seen in the TV holiday movie The Kid Who Loved Christmas (1990, played Lynette Parks) and Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991, as Lulu Daniels), starring Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson. She also resumed her musical success with the sophomore recording The Comfort Zone (1991), which apparently sold quite well and received triple platinum certification. Williams received two Grammy and two MTV Video Music nominations for the lead single “Running Back to You” and the US No.1 hit “Save the Best for Last.” The album also collected two other Grammys and 3 American Music nominations.
Appearing as Suzanne de Passe in the TV biopic The Jacksons: An American Dream (1992), Williams then rose even higher after her duet with Brian McKnight in “Love Is” (1993, “Beverly Hills 90210” soundtrack) became a Billboard Music’s Number One Adult Contemporary Single and brought her a Grammy nomination. Also in 1993, she was named Playboy Magazine’s “Best Female Rhythm and Blues Vocalist.” Following the triumph, the singer launched The Sweetest Days (1994), a platinum recording that received listeners’ notice through its titular single and the track “The Way That You Love.” Before long, she was handed an NAACP Image for Outstanding Female Artist.
Amazingly, in 1994, the multitalented performer made her stage debut on Broadway with a role in the musical “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and soon won a Theater World for Best Debut Performance. Also, the taped performance of the musical show earned a Grammy nomination. After playing Dr. Kathy ‘Kat’ Hunter in Nothing Lasts Forever (1995, TV), Williams costarred as Dr. Lee Cullen in Eraser (1996, opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger), for which she also sang the acclaimed “Where Do We Go From Here?”
Through her soundtrack work, “Colors of the Wind,” from the animated movie Pocahontas (1995), the artist took home her first Grammy and another Grammy nomination. She was also nominated for a Grammy after releasing a holiday album titled Star Bright in 1996. Keeping up with her musical victory, Williams won an NAACP Image for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture after superbly portrayed Teri, a feuding daughter, in the drama Soul Food (1997).
Williams, who in 1996 received the Soul Train Lady of Soul’s Lena Horne award for Career Achievement, launched her fourth studio album, Next, in 1997. The NAACP Image-nominated album, however, did not gain the same response as its predecessors. Williams then chose to release Greatest Hits: The First Ten Years, a year later.
The actress then starred as Ruby Sinclair in Dance with Me (1998). She was also seen as Queen of Trash in the Sesame Street spin-off The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland (1999), before trying a hand at producing with the TV film The Courage to Love (2000), where she also starred as Mother Henriette Delille.
Subsequent to her supporting part as M.J. Blake in WW3 (2001, TV), Williams achieved success on screen and stage. Playing jazz singer-turned-Congressman’s wife Hazel Scott in the biopic Keep the Faith, Baby (2002, TV), the actress won a Golden Satellite for Best Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. She was also applauded for her lovely turn in the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Into The Woods” (2002) and reaped a Tony and Drama League nomination for Best Actress. Also, the taped stage performance became a Grammy-nominated album. In November 2002, Williams performed the title role in Debbie Allen’s “Carmen Jones” at the Kennedy Center.
The performer returned to TV and made a recurring performance as Det. Katherine Pierce in the acclaimed series “Boomtown” (2003) before acting opposite Cedric the Entertainer in the comedy Johnson Family Vacation (2004, starred as Dorothy Johnson). In late 2004, Williams launched her second holiday album titled Silver and Gold and tagged it along with her eighth studio album, Everlasting Love, in 2005. The 2005 album featured her favorite songs from the 1970s.
Recently, Williams had the leading turn of L’Tisha Morton in the drama My Brother (2006). She also guest starred as Elizabeth Bauer in the drama series “South Beach” (2006). The actress will play Juile in the Richard Schenkman-helmed Who Needs ‘Em (2007).
- Golden Satellite: Best Actress - Miniseries or Movie, Keep the Faith, Baby, 2002
- NAACP Image: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture, Soul Food, 1997
- Soul Train Lady of Soul: Lena Horne Award for Career Achievement, 1996
- Grammy: Best Song written specifically for a Motion Picture or Television, “Colors of the Wind,” 1995
- NAACP Image: Outstanding Female Artist, 1994
- Theater World: Best Debut Performance, “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” 1994
- Playboy Magazine’s: Best Female Rhythm and Blues Vocalist, 1993
- Billboard Music: Number One Adult Contemporary Single, “Love Is,” shared with Brian McKnight, 1993
- NAACP Image: Best New Artist, 1989