New Jack Swing Hall Of Fame:
Editor's Note: Along with Karyn White, Pebbles, Paula Abdul, and Janet Jackson, Vanessa Williams was heavily influenced by the New Jack sound. Her two "biggest" albums were firmly entrenched in the time, and this bio submission pays tribute to Ms. Williams' contribution to the soundscape of the NJS Era.
-- A. Knyte
After becoming the first African American to win and lose her Miss America crown in 1983 (the result of having posed in Penthouse some years earlier), Vanessa Williams signed with with Mercury/Polygram (also known as Wing/Polygram) a few years later. In 1988, she released The Right Stuff, her debut album. This LP featured the title track, and the #1 R&B ballad "Dreamin." Three years later, she would release Comfort Zone, her breakthrough album, featuring the title track, "Running Back to You," a remake of the Isleys's "Work to Do," and the now adult-contemporary standard, "Save The Best for Last." In 1993, Williams teamed up with labelmate Brian McKnight for the duet, "Love Is" from the Beverly Hills 90210 soundtrack. A year later she would return with third effort The Sweetest Days. Becoming a platinum seller, it feautured the hits "Betcha Never," "Ellamental", a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, and "You Can't Run."
Although she would go silent in 1995 after releasing "Colors of the Wind" on the Pochahontas soundtrack (a Grammy-winner, mind you), she began to act more. While co-starring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1996 film "Eraser," she also released her first Christmas album, Star Bright. Williams scored again in 1997 with the hit movie "Soul Food," while also releasing her fourth effort Next. Despite production by famed New Jack alums R. Kelly and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, the album failed to generate a buzz. Then in 1998, a greatest hits album was released. A year later she would tie the knot with LA Laker Rick Fox. Williams continues to act (including on Broadway), and acted alongside fellow New Jack Era alum Donnie Wahlberg on the cancelled (but critically acclaimed) NBC series "Boomtown."
Vanessa Williams now has a high profile role on ABC's hit television series "Ugly Betty," which debuted in 2006.