"Being labeled a beauty queen really hurt my brand."
-- Vanessa Williams, on winning Miss America in 1983.
Vanessa Williams was on HuffPost Live today and was moping about having become the first Afican-American Miss America in history. Apparently it caused problems for her brand. Mind you, given that before she won the pageant and international acclaim, no one knew who on earth she was or that she even had a brand, and so it brought her brand, whatever that brand was, to their attention. Maybe she could have started a side brand. Hey, it's worked for Nabisco.
Ms. Williams noted that she entered the contest, "because I was a junior in college, [and] I got scholarships every year. I had no idea that I would win. In terms of means to an end, I don't think it worked for me because my mean was I wanted to be where I am right now."
So, let's see if I have it right -- she won the contest and got to where she wanted to be. Right now. And that didn't work for her?? In what Pageant Universe does that logic exist?
Now, it's certainly possible that there were people who looked down on her winning Miss America, and she had more hurdles to overcome, to prove herself, that she just wasn't a vapid pretty face. No question. On the other hand, it gave her a platform that opened doors she never would have come close to having -- as a junior in college, as an aspiring performer, as an African-American woman, struggling to break through. Besides which, I think it's likely that today there is a huge audience that doesn't have any clue that she won Miss America.
Considering that she's had a 30-year career as a recording artist, in movies, on TV, in a Stephen Sondheim musical, and currently starring in a Tony-nominated play, in a profession where 10 years of success is good, and at an age when most women are hoping they can hired to play "the mom" in an episode of a TV show, she's done pretty darn well. Does she want to have done better -- I suspect more performers tend to want to have done better -- performing is full of "if only I got that role" -- though that doesn't mean she would have. And besides, she just said herself that she "wanted to be where I am right now."
I have no idea if anything hurt Vanessa Williams's brand or not. But if anything did, I suspect it might have been the racy, naked photos she took with another woman for Penthouse, that appeared not long after she won Miss America, which ultimately resulted in her being stripped of her title. Something she seems to overlook mentioning. I'm not sure how that was meant to fit in with her brand, and her scholarships and college, and her means to and end. But it sounds like Ms. Williams seemed to have no qualms doing whatever means it took to get her brand to its end, and -- given that she where she wanted to be -- it all worked out okay.
So, the whole moping about the Miss America thing seems a little vapid.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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