Vanessa Williams: What It's Like to Be Stuck in the News

5 years ago

Every so often a story hits the news and won't go away. It stays in the news cycle for weeks and as much as you may try to ignore it you can't. Have you ever wondered what it's like to be in on the inside if such a story? How the people involved got there and what they thought? Vanessa and Helen Williams know just what it's like and spill all in their new book, You Have No Idea.

Vanessa Williams entered a beauty contest not because she wanted to be a beauty queen, but because she wanted the scholarship money. She didn't think she'd win, but she did. Then she won the state pageant, and then she won one of the biggest pageants of them all and became Miss America. In doing so, she entered the history books as the first black Miss America. She'd later make more history as she would be asked to resign from the position when nude photos surfaced.

I'm really too young to remember Vanessa Williams being dethroned. She comes into my memory as the singer of "Save the Best for Last" first, but even then there was always the knowledge of her Miss America days. The press has a long memory. I knew the story was big, but until I read You Have No Idea, I didn't fully appreciate just how big the story really was. The thought of it being in the papers, not just for days but for weeks, boggles my mind.

Credit: © Lisa O'Connor/

When a big story breaks like Vanessa's did, I often wonder how the family is doing. Few things in life happen to and impact only ourselves. Sometimes tucked into Vanessa's story like a whispered aside or as a section at the end to give the reader more context for the story, Helen's words added more depth to the book. If you've ever wondered what Vanessa's mother thought of anything -- from the pageant to the photos to her marriages -- Helen doesn't hold back. She'll tell you exactly what she thinks.

You Have No Idea isn't just about the Miss America scandal. It also tells how Vanessa moved past that to become a recording artist, how she made it to Broadway and eventually, to Wisteria Lane. It's also not just another celebrity memoir. It's a story about how we can't let others shape our opinions of ourselves and how determination can get you far in this world. And how a supportive mother can get you even farther.

We'll be discussing You Have No Idea in BlogHer Book Club for the next month. Join the conversation.

BlogHer Book Club Host Karen Ballum also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

This is an article written by one of the incredible members of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

More from entertainment