Author Lecture by Vannesa and Helen Williams
You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No Nonsense Mother and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and each other)
A friend from Wisteria Lane visited Main Street at the Atlanta Marcus Jewish Community Center May 7, not as her hit role on Desperate Housewives, but as an co-author of her memoir You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No Nonsense Mother and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and each other). Who am I referring to? None other than Vanessa Williams and her mother Helen Williams.
It hard to believe that it has been close to thirty years since Williams flashed onto the scene as the first African-American Miss America. She noted that it was time to share her story.
These strong women were up front and open about their lives in a discussion led by Atlanta’s former first lady, Valerie Jackson. No topic was taboo as Williams spoke to her life’s struggles.
This book was is a dialogue between mother and daughter, and they were assisted by writer Irene Zutell.
Williams, a native of New York, has always been drawn to the arts. Living in an hour north of the city made the glitz and glamour of the stage a real possibility. As a student she was recruited to participate in a beauty pageant that lead to her winning Miss New York. Within five months of entering the pageant world she participated and won Miss America. What followed was a whirlwind of events that she did not expect, and Williams had planned to spend that summer in London.
The crown did come at a price. She felt the pressures of being the first black woman in that position and received many threats. Her mother acknowledges that she and her husband also felt the pressure. Unfortunately, some nude photos were published in Penthouse within a few weeks of winning her crown.
The pageant escort told her she was going home, and with that she was stripped of her title. She never received official word from the Miss America organization. Williams thought of pursuing legal suit but she feared that an undisclosed child molestation incident would come out and bring more pain to her family. Williams decided to “move forward”.
The book promises to be a salacious tale of a roller coaster life that has had as many highs as lows. Overall the bond between these two women is strong.
Williams did share that in the final episode of Desperate Housewives her character will finally find happiness.
Be sure to check out this tell all book, You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No Nonsense Mother and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and each other) by Vanessa Williams and Helen Williams with Irene Zutell (Gotham Books, $28).
For more details of events at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, visit: http://www.atlantajcc.org/or call (678)812-4002