In 1984, Williams famously became the first African American to be crowned Miss America — but was forced to resign from her duties after nude photos taken of her before she received her title surfaced and were sold to Penthouse magazine without her consent.
Since that scandal, Williams has become known for a music career that includes 11 Grammy Award nominations. She also has an extensive theater, film and television resume that features roles on series like “Desperate Housewives” and “Ugly Betty.” An equal rights advocate, particularly for the LGBT community and for minorities, Williams has been honored with the Human Rights Campaign’s Ally for Equality Award for her humanitarian contributions.
“Vanessa Williams made history by becoming the first African American to win the competition when she was crowned Miss America 1984, and she went on to conquer the worlds of music, Broadway, television, and film,” said Sam Haskell, executive chairman & CEO of the Miss America Organization. “It is a great honor to welcome her back to the competition as our head judge.”
Williams will be joined at this year’s Miss America by fellow judges Brett Eldredge, Taya Kyle, Danica McKellar, Kevin O’Leary, Amy Purdy and Zendaya. This year’s hosts are “The Bachelor’s” Chris Harrison and “Dancing With the Stars” alum Brooke Burke-Charvet. Nick Jonas will act as the official music curator.
ABC will air this year’s Miss America competition live starting at 9 p.m. ET on Sept. 13. It faces stiff competition from NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.”