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Jul 23

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July 23, 1984: Vanessa Williams Resigns as Miss America

Vanessa Williams Penthouse CoverOn this day in 1984, Vanessa Williams resigned as Miss America. The first African-American woman to receive the crown was forced to do so before nude pictures of her were published in Penthouse magazine.

Williams was 10 months into her tenure as Miss America 1984 when it was revealed that nude photos she had taken with other women while working as an assistant make-up artist in 1982 would be published. She posed for the photos when she was either 18 or 19 and they were to run without her consent.

On July 23, facing pressure from the Miss America Organization, who in turn was experiencing backlash from sponsors from advertisers, Williams resigned her crown. The runner-up Suzette Charles, who was also African-American, served the last seven weeks of Williams’ reign. The Miss America Organization allowed Williams to keep her crown and scholarship money and she is listed as “Miss America 1984.” Charles is listed as “Miss America 1984-b.”

Since then Williams has had one of the most successful careers of any former Miss America, becoming a star in music, movies, television and theater. Meanwhile, the Miss America Pageant has continued to roll along while local and state pageant scandals and shows like “Toddlers and Tiaras” have allowed Williams’ poor choice in her teens to fade into history.

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