The Miss America pageant offered a formal apology to Vanessa Williams on Sunday night’s telecast, more than 30 years after the actress was forced to resign her title in 1984 following the unauthorized publication of nude photos from 1982 in Penthouse magazine.
Williams took the stage for a performance of “Oh How the Years Go By” before being joined onstage by Miss America CEO Sam Haskell, who told the Grammy and Tony-nominated star, “You have lived your life in grace and dignity, and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned. Though none of us currently in the organization were involved then, on behalf of today’s organization, I want to apologize to you and to your mother, Ms. Helen Williams. I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be.”
Visibly moved, Williams responded that Haskell’s words were “so unexpected but so beautiful. I did the best that I could in my reign as Miss America in 1983-84” and thanked Haskell on behalf of her family, before going on to praise his “leadership” and “integrity. You bring this pageant back to what it ought to be … I’m so honored to be back.”
Williams made history when she became the first African American contestant to be crowned Miss America during the Sept. 17, 1983 ceremony. Seven weeks before the end of her reign, Williams resigned the crown in the midst of a nude photo scandal and was replaced by runner-up Suzette Charles.
The multi-hyphenate performer, who has since enjoyed numerous roles on stage and screen, including an Emmy-nominated turn on “Ugly Betty,” served as a judge alongside Brett Eldredge; Taya Kyle; Danica McKellar; Kevin O’Leary; Amy Purdy and Zendaya at the 2016 pageant.
Read on to find out who won this year’s pageant. (SPOILER ALERT)
The winner of the 2016 Miss America title was Miss Georiga, Betty Cantrell.