Waxing Nostalgic Over Classic TV

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Day Miss America Got Naked

"You think all Miss Americas are 'Miss America?' I mean, c'mon!"

Vanessa Williams, the beautiful star of ABC's Ugly Betty, made history twice as Miss America 1984. First, she was the first African-American woman to win the crown, and then 10 months later became the first winner to be forced to resign her title amidst scandal.

And what a scandal it was. Naked pictures of her had surfaced; pictures that had been taken two years earlier and sold to Penthouse magazine without her authorization. Miss America naked? America couldn't handle the disconnect. Our sweet little innocent symbol of all that is good and pure - naked? It was surely one of the signs of the Apocalypse!

Interestingly, Hugh Hefner had turned down the chance to publish the photos in Playboy, saying that "because they would be the source of considerable embarrassment to her, we decided not to publish them." Bob Guccione had no such qualms, however, and published the photos in the September 1984 issue of Penthouse, where she appeared on the cover alongside George Burns (the first man, by the way, to ever appear on the magazine's cover).

Although it was a very traumatic episode in the young life of Ms. Williams, Guccione's prediction that the notoriety would actually be beneficial for her career turned out to be true, as she went on to become one of America's favorite singers and carved out a very successful career as a Broadway, film, and television star.

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