Vanessa Williams’ new memoir, You Have No Idea, reveals that the beauty queen turned singer turned actress was molested by a family friend at the tender of ten. The book, co-authored by Williams’ mother Helen, also chronicles the rebellious streak that resulted from the abuse (she smoked marijuana and had an abortion as a teen), and how traumatic it was to suddenly remember the incidents of molestation and realize how they’d impacted her. The 49-year-old mother of four also shares that she attracted death threats and criticism from the public during her short run as the first black Miss America. From People:
On The Abuse:
Vanessa: Family friends who had a daughter invited me to visit their friends in California with them. The family we stayed with had two kids. Susan, who was 18, smoked, drove a car, and was the epitome of cool. (My friend) Nancy and I slept in the den. One night Susan crept in. She told me to lie down on the rug. I was confused. Are we going to play a game? As I tried to make sense of it, Susan pulled down the bloomers of my cotton baby-doll pajamas.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked. ‘Don’t worry – it’ll feel good.’ I lay there paralyzed. What was going on? I didn’t speak. She kept at (the molestation) for I don’t know how long. She slid my bloomers back up and whispered: ‘Don’t tell anyone.’ I climbed into my bed, trying to figure out what had just happened.
For years I kept Susan’s visit to myself. I didn’t really understand until college. I was with with my boyfriend and it hit me and I blurted it out: ‘Oh my god – I was molested!’ After that trip I felt something change in me.
On Being Crowned Miss America:
Vanessa: As the 1983 Miss America put the crown on my head, I had no emotion – I wasn’t very happy. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t there. I just smiled and waved. I had made history, but for some (black people), winning wouldn’t suffice. Some didn’t think I was black enough.
The New York Daily News ran a photo of Bruce (my boyfriend) and me – and the response was, ‘Oh my God! She has a white boyfriend!’ My mother received death threats.
Helen: I was so proud of her. But someone wrote that they were going to throw acid in her face. People sent notes: ‘YOU’RE DEAD, B**CH.’ We were so worried. We had no idea there’d be all this anger and hatred.
You Have No Idea will be released on April 17.