Years Later Vanessa Williams Tells Surprising Painful Truth Behind Her Nude Penthouse Photos

Posted On : July 20, 2021
Vanessa Williams

There was a time in 1983 when Vanessa Williams was at the top of her game – she was crowned the first African American Miss America and was in hot demand in entertainment, then as we all recall, it came crashing down…hard.

After Penthouse released nude photos of Vanessa Williams, the Miss America powers-that-be stripped the “The Right Stuff” singer of her scepter, her crown, her title and whatever other duties come along with winning that pageant. Then came the public persecution and the media mayhem…ironically, that is was later skyrocketed her acting and music career into another stratosphere…we’ll get to that in a second. But first lets get to the very shocking truth that Vanessa Williams recently revealed about those nude photos and the very sad, but REAL reason why she ultimately had no choice but to drop the lawsuit she and her parents had against Penthouse Magazine over her nude pics. The reason was something she said she never wanted to tell ANYONE, not even her parents and she revealed it in an interview with NPR…

Vanessa Williams Penthouse Magazine cover, 1987

On what made her take the naked photos in the first place, some of which included sexual acts with another woman:

WILLIAMS: Well, I try to illustrate in the book, my mother kept saying: You’re just like your father; you’re too trusting. And there’s a part of me that, I do give people the benefit of the doubt. I do value friendships. And when people give me their word, I listen to them. And it’s also being free. … When you say no, I say well, you know what? I’m going to do it anyway.

And that was the mode I was in at that particular time, when I took those racy pictures, because I was already in college so you can’t tell me what to do. So… my mentality was what – I’m living my own life; I’m a spirited, young woman; I can handle this; I can handle anything. And at 19, you think you rule the world, and you can control things. And a lot of times, you don’t. And again, when… everything happened with this scandal…I had not signed a [photo] release. So I had trusted the person that had taken the photos, that I had worked for, that there was nothing, legally, that he could actually do.

Vanessa Williams at press conference in the ’80s

Here’s the sad, shocking truth Vanessa revealed about why she ultimately dropped the lawsuit:

WILLIAMS: We had a lawsuit against Penthouse that my parents were paying for – and both of them are music teachers, so they weren’t making a tremendous amount of money.
And one of the stories I tell [in my book] was that when, after going through a few rounds of deposition and them just being as brutal as possible to me, my lawyer said ‘Listen, was there any time you were ever with another woman sexually – because, you know, these pictures have you with another woman, and they’re going to ask you.’ And I said well, the only time I was ever with another woman was when I was 10, and I was molested by an 18-year-old. And he said ‘well, you know, they’re going to bring it up on the stand. So when we get to trial, I just want you to be aware of that.’ And I hadn’t told my parents, and I hadn’t revealed this to anyone. And I said, you know what? I’m done. I don’t want to go through this anymore.

We salute Vanessa Williams for being so open about something that is extremely personal and hurtful.