Watch Vanessa Williams Finally Receives an Apology at the Miss America 2016 Pageant
Vanessa Williams made headlines last week when she announced that 32 years after she had to resign as Miss America over nude photos that were published in Penthouse without her consent, she would be returning as head judge of the 2016 pageant.
The news allowed for fresh discussion of the nature of scandal, forgiveness, and the changing landscape when it comes to celebrity privacy. Sunday night — as the 2016 pageant was broadcast live on ABC — current CEO Sam Haskell issued a public, official apology to Williams for the events of 1984 that stripped her of her title.
With his arm around Williams, Haskell addressed the crowd saying, "I have been a close friend to this beautiful and talented lady for 32 years. You have lived your life with grace and dignity and never was it more evident during the events of 1984 when you resigned. Though none of us currently in the organization were involved in it, on behalf of today's organization, I want to apologize for anything that was said and done to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams." The camera then cut to Vanessa's 75-year-old mother in the audience.
Haskell concluded, "I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America that you are and Miss America you always will be."
It's hard now, especially in light of recent celebrity nude hacks, to imagine Williams as anything other than a victim in 1984. At the time, Williams wrote in People magazine, "I feel as if I were just a sacrificial lamb. The past just came up and kicked me. I felt betrayed and violated, like I had been raped." And despite the fact that Penthouse paid more for the Williams' photos than they had ever paid for a spread before, Playboy actually passed on the material. Hugh Hefner, way ahead of his time, said, "The single victim in all of this was the young woman herself, whose right to make this decision was taken away from her. If she wanted to make this kind of statement, that would be her business, but the statement wasn't made by her."
Haskell's decision to officially apologize to Williams is rumored to have caused some internal strife in an organization that has seen some significant turnover of late. But the apology went over like gangbusters with the live Miss America audience and as the crowd erupted into a thunderous standing ovation, Williams responded, "Thank you, Sam, so unexpected but so beautiful. I did the best that I could during my reign during 1983 to 1984. On behalf of my family and my mother in particular ... and your leadership and integrity, I love you. I love the girls and I’m so honored."
Haskell stopped short of re-crowning Williams right then and there on the spot. But don't worry, folks. Williams still has her bling from 1984. And now she has a shiny apology to go with it.
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Photo Credit: Donald Kravitz via Getty Images