Vanessa Williams to return to Miss America after 3 decades

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
How Vanessa Williams Endured Her Miss America Scandal


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Three decades after she gave up the crown amid a nude photo scandal, Vanessa Williams is returning to the Miss America pageant.

The Miss America Organization, Dick Clark Productions and the ABC television network announced Tuesday they are bringing back the award-winning actress and singer to serve as head judge for the 2016 competition. It begins Tuesday and culminates in the crowning of the next Miss America on Sunday.

Williams, the first African-American Miss America, won the title in 1984 but resigned after Penthouse magazine published sexually explicit photographs of her taken several years earlier.

She went on to have a successful career in film, television, music and Broadway.

Sam Haskell, executive chairman and CEO of the Miss America Organization, said his friendship with Williams pre-dated the turmoil caused by the release of the photos.

"I have been friends with Vanessa for 32 years," he told The Associated Press. "When the photos were published, there were people urging her to fight, but close supporters knew if she lost that fight that she would be completely removed from the history books. Instead of pursuing what would surely have been a long and stressful legal battle, Vanessa decided to resign and focus on her career. Vanessa and her family were hurt during the aftermath of the resignation, and that saddened me."

Photos of Vanessa Williams from over the years:

28 PHOTOS
See Vanessa Williams through the years
See Gallery
Vanessa Williams to return to Miss America after 3 decades
Vanessa L. Williams arrives at the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 14: Vanessa Williams at NBC's Today Show studios in New York City on April 14, 2014. Credit:RW/MediaPunch
Vanessa Williams watches a game between Dayton and Syracuse during the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Buffalo, N.Y., Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR CLEAR EYES - Award-winning actress and singer Vanessa Williams unveiled her new national TV commercial for Clear Eyes over-the-counter eye drops at an event in New York on Thursday, May 30, 2013. (Mark Von Holden/AP Images for Clear Eyes)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR MARS CHOCOLATE NORTH AMERICA - Vanessa Williams, voice of the sixth M&M'S character, Ms. Brown, makes an appearance at the "Better With M" Kick-Off Event on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 in New Orleans. (Jonathan Bachman/AP Images for Mars Chocolate North America)
Actress Vanessa Williams arrives at the HBO Golden Globe After Party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday Jan. 13, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo byC hris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Actress Vanessa Williams arrives at the Disney ABC Television Group 2012 Summer Press Tour All-Star Cocktail Reception on Friday, July 27, 2012, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Vanessa Williams attends the Entertainment Weekly and ABC Upfronts Party in New York, Tuesday, May 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
Actress Vanessa Williams attends the Broadway opening of "Evita," starring Ricky Martin, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on Thursday, April 5, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Starpix, Amanda Schwab)
Actress Vanessa Williams arrives at the Disney ABC Television Group 2012 Summer Press Tour All-Star Cocktail Reception on Friday, July 27, 2012, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)
Vanessa Williams arrives at the 43rd NAACP Image Awards on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Actress Vanessa Williams arrives at the nominations for the 43rd NAACP Image Awards, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)
Vanessa Williams accepts the award for outstanding actress in a comedy series for "Desperate Housewives" at the 42nd NAACP Image Awards on Friday, March 4, 2011, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Actress Vanessa Williams arrives for the funeral Mass for R. Sargent Shriver at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic church in Potomac, Md., just outside Washington, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011. Shriver, the man responsible for launching the Peace Corps after marrying into the Kennedy family, died last Tuesday at age 95 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for years. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Vanessa Williams arrives at the People's Choice Awards on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Actress Vanessa Williams attends the premiere of "Sex And The City 2" at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Monday, May 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)
Vanessa Williams arrives at the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2009, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Vanessa Williams performs at the Daytime Emmy Awards on Sunday Aug. 30, 2009, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Gilles Marini, right, and Vanessa Williams perform at the Daytime Emmy Awards on Sunday Aug. 30, 2009,in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
Photo by: Raoul Gatchalian/starmaxinc.com �2009 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Telephone/Fax: (212) 995-1196 3/28/09 Vanessa Williams at the 20th Annual GLAAD Media Awards. (NYC) (Star Max via AP Images)
Vanessa Williams arrives at the premiere of "Hannah Montana the Movie" in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Actress Vanessa Williams attends the 34th annual March of Dimes Beauty Ball, in New York, on Thursday, March. 12, 2009. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)
Actress Vanessa Williams attends the opening night of the New York City Ballet in New York on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer)
Vanessa Williams hosts the TV Land Awards on Sunday June 8, 2008 in Santa Monica, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
Actress Vanessa Williams attends a Cinema Society and Dolce Gabbana hosted special screening of 'Filth and Wisdom' on Monday, Oct.13, 2008 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
Actress and show host Vanessa Williams on stage at the TV Land Awards on Sunday June 8, 2008 in Santa Monica, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
Vanessa Williams arrives at the "Hollywood Glam with Rebecca Romijn" party at the bebe store in Beverly Hills, Calif., Thursday, March 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Haskell has been trying for a decade to bring Williams back to the Miss America stage, but this was the first year the logistics could be arranged.

"Vanessa's career speaks for itself, with all the success that she has had," Haskell said. "When I became chairman of Miss America, one of the first calls I made was to Vanessa, to try to find a way to get her to come back. Her return as a huge success is a way for us all to move forward and put the past behind us. It's truly an honor to welcome her back to the Miss America Pageant."

Since her 1988 debut album, "The Right Stuff," Williams has sold more than 7 million records worldwide and has scored No. 1 and Top 10 hits on various Billboard album and singles charts, including pop, dance, R&B, adult contemporary, holiday, Latin, Gospel and jazz.

Her work has been honored by 4 Emmy nominations; 17 Grammy nominations (of which 11 were for her individually); a Tony nomination, 3 Screen Actors Guild award nominations; 7 NAACP Image Awards; and a Golden Globe, Grammy and an Oscar for Best Original Song for her platinum single "Colors of the Wind," from the Disney film "Pocahontas."

She also starred on the TV shows "Ugly Betty" and "Desperate Housewives."

Williams co-starred with Cicely Tyson and Cuba Gooding Jr. in Broadway's "The Trip To Bountiful" in 2013. She returned to the Great White Way the next year in the musical "After Midnight."

She joins pageant hosts Chris Harrison and Brooke Burke-Charvet, music curator Nick Jonas and celebrity judges Brett Eldredge, Taya Kyle, Danica McKellar, Kevin O'Leary, Amy Purdy and Zendaya.

More from AOL.com:
Shakira shows off toned figure in first performance since giving birth in January
The summer of celebrity heartbreak: By the numbers
Bindi Irwin shares sweet tribute to her late father

Read Full Story

From Our Partners