Character: Jessie Mae Watts
Vanessa Williams is one of the most respected and multi-faceted performers in entertainment today. She has conquered the musical charts, Broadway, music videos, television and motion pictures. She has sold millions of albums worldwide and has achieved critical acclaim as an actress on stage, in film and on television.
Her albums “The Right Stuff,” “The Comfort Zone and “The Sweetest Days” earned multiple Grammy nominations and have yielded such classic hits as “Save the Best For Last,” “Dreamin,” “Work To Do,” “Love Is,” the Academy Award-winning single “Colors of the Wind,” from Disney’s “Pocahontas,” and many others. Her recordings also include two holiday albums, “Star Bright” and “Silver & Gold,” “Vanessa Williams Greatest Hits: The First Ten Years” and “Everlasting Love,” a romantic collection of love songs from the 1970’s. Concord Records released William’s, “The Real Thing,” in June 2009, for which she received a NAACP nomination for “Outstanding Jazz Artist.”
In 1994, Williams took Broadway by storm when she replaced Chita Rivera in “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” winning the hearts of critics and becoming a box-office sensation. In 2002, she garnered rave reviews and was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as the Witch in the revival of “Into the Woods.” She also headlined a limited special engagement of the classic, “Carmen Jones,” at the Kennedy Center and starred in the Encore! series staged concert production of “St. Louis Woman.” After appearing on stage in Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine’s “Sondheim on Sondheim,” an original Broadway musical that ran in the spring of 2010 at The Roundabout Theatre, Williams returned to the stage in 2013 for the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful.”
Williams made her film debut in 1986 in “Under the Gun” and has starred in features such as “Eraser,” “Hoodlum,” “Soul Food,” “Dance With Me,” “Light It Up,” “Shaft“ and “Johnson Family Vacation.” More recently, her film credits have come to include the independent features, “My Brother,” “Somebody Like You” and Disney’s feature film, “Hannah Montana: The Movie.” Williams was last seen on the screen in Tyler Perry’s “Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor.”
On television, Williams has starred in such movies and mini-series as “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” “The Boy Who Loved Christmas,” “The Jacksons: An American Dream,” ABC’s revival of “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “Nothing Lasts Forever,” “The Odyssey,” “Don Quixote” and “Keep the Faith, Baby.” She executive produced and starred in Lifetime’s “The Courage to Love” and the VH1 Original Movie, “A Diva’s Christmas Carol.” Williams starred in ABC’s critically-acclaimed hit series, “Ugly Betty,” earning three Emmy nominations as the deliciously wicked Wilhelmina Slater, in addition to numerous individual and ensemble awards and nominations, including SAG, Golden Globes and NAACP Image Awards. In the Fall of 2010, she moved to Wisteria Lane as the newest resident on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” where she stirred things up as Renee Perry. In March 2011, she won the NAACP Image Award for this role and helped carry the show to the end of its 8-year run in May 2012. Most recently, Williams played Olivia, the stylish wife of the devilish Gavin (Terry O’Quinn) in the ABC supernatural drama “666 Park Avenue.”
In April 2012, Williams and her mother Helen landed on the NY Times Best Seller list after publishing the memoir “You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other).” The book brings readers on the inside journey of Williams’s life – told for the first time from her perspective and with the wisdom and frankness of her mother, the firecracker Miss Helen. The book is now available in paperback.
In 2007, Williams achieved a career pinnacle, with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her accomplishments as a performer. In December 2010, the International Foreign Press Academy named Williams as the recipient of the 2010 Mary Pickford Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to the Entertainment Industry. The award honors her international achievements and success in film, television, stage and recording over the past 28 years. Her charitable endeavors are many and varied, embracing and supporting such organizations as Special Olympics, The Eye Bank and many others.