The Vanessa Williams Scandal

And now it’s time to name our runner-up, who, if the winner doesn’t fulfill her duties, blah, blah, blah, wuzzah, wuzzah, wuzzah… And don’t say it’ll never happen! Because we all remember that thing with what’s-her-name … [camera noises] … you know… — Krusty, “Lisa The Beauty Queen”

As the first African-American winner of the Miss America beauty pageant in 1984, future actress and R&B artist Vanessa Williams proved that black women could be objectified in the same way as whites*.

(Be sure to check out the YouTube comments for some trenchant comments on race and beauty in America.)

Ah, but it was not to be. For young Vanessa had a couple of years earlier posed for a series of steamy nude photographs that were suddenly a hot commodity now that she wore the crown. The photos, which depicted some “simulated” girl-on-beauty-queen action, were ultimately published in literary quarterly Penthouse.

Scandal ensued. The purity of the Miss America title was called into question. And Williams buckled to pressure from the pageant’s organizers to give up the crown lest her smutty reign cheapen the values associated with beauty pageantry.

Williams ended up getting the last laugh, though. By that, I mean smut merchant Bob Guccione, the Penthouse founder who bought the photos, is dead and in Hell.

And, now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the tawdry photos themselves. Let me Google that for you. SHS is a family-friendly website, people. Long live the queen.

*Credit Weekend Update for that joke.

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