Over three decades after being forced to give up her crown as first African-American Miss America in 1983, Vanessa Williams announced on September 8 that she would be returning to the Miss America 2016 contest. I'm betting that every Miss America fan has since been aching to see what Vanessa Williams' Miss America gown was like.
Williams' crown was revoked after an untrustworthy photographer sent sexually explicit photos of her to Penthouse magazine. Refusing to let the backlash quash her ambitions, however, Williams bravely used the scandal to her advantage by instead taking the worlds of music, film, and TV by storm.
From her role as the formidable Wilhelmina Slater in Ugly Betty to Desperate Housewives' Renee Perry and The Mindy Project's Dr. Phillips, Williams is a multitalented actress who has achieved critical acclaim in a vast range of formats. Her contemporary superstardom doesn't seem to have much to do with her tumultuous past, which is probably why Mike Mahan, President of Dick Clark Productions, referred to her return to Miss America as head judge as "a special cultural and television moment."
Vanessa Williams has also certainly maintained her style dignity and beauty know-how. She is a regular feature in fashion lookbooks and style blogs for her polished power dressing, and was recently an Internet sensation due to her gorgeously minimalistic gold and white silk wedding gown. In addition, Williams also launched her own successful beauty line ReVitalistic in July 2012, with products ranging from skin-rejuvenating peels to skin-care creams and eye serums. So, back to that gown.
As a woman who oozed poise, elegance, and immaculate style even at the tender age of 20, a 1983 issue of People Magazine referred to the victorious contestant as "a cool breeze in a lavender gown," following her first strut down the runway. As the article stated at the time, the young woman's victory was a triumph on several levels. Not only was Williams the 56th Miss America to grace the stage, but by succeeding in bringing down the barriers that prevented African-Americans from relating to the notion of "all-American beauty," she'd officially secured herself a place in history's trailblazer hall of fame.
And what a showstopping dress to secure it in. A full-length, lavender, halter neck number featuring a tulle-layered fishtail skirt, a hand-beaded white floral pattern, and a heavy handed dusting of shimmering sequins, Williams' delightful dress emulated the perfect meeting point between aristocratic elegance and mermaid couture. It was the sort of dress that little girls' dreams are made of. Paired with a dreamy, cloud-like tulle corsage, her glittering crown, and a smile that lit up the nation, Williams became the ultimate pretty-as-a-picture style icon for every Barbie doll and princess make-believe game for years to come.
That being said, Foxreports that Williams and the Miss America Organization are allegedly still at odds, as rumors abound that the show's executives expect Williams to apologize for the nude photographs before returning the crown to her. Here's hoping those executives have learned a little something in the last 30 years and are willing to celebrate Williams for all that she's done and all that she continues to do.