Miss America pageant apologises to Vanessa Williams 32 years after forcing her to resign

Williams was forced to hand back her title in 1984 after nude photos of her appeared in 'Penthouse'

The organisers of the Miss America pageant have apologised to Vanessa Williams more than three decades after the she was forced to relinquish her title.

Before Williams built a career as a singer and actress, she became the first black woman to be named Miss America, winning the annual pageant in 1983. However, she was forced to stand down as Miss America the following year after Penthouse magazine published nude photos of her without her consent.

Williams, known for her roles in Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives, returned to the Miss America pageant over the weekend to serve as this year’s head judge, and received a public apology from Sam Haskell, the organisation’s executive chairman.

“I have been a close friend to this beautiful and talented lady for 32 years,” Haskell told the audience watching the live televised event. “You have lived your life in grace and dignity, and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned. Though none of us currently in the organisation were involved then, on behalf of today’s organisation, I want to apologise to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams.”

“I want to apologise for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America you are and the Miss America you will always be,” Haskell added.

Responding to the apology, Williams said after the event: “I want to thank everyone who has come up to me over the past 32 years and said, ‘You’ll always be my Miss America’. I got a chance to be on the stage and represent what I represented back in 1984. Thank you so much for being so welcome to me.”

As well as forging a prolific acting career, Williams has enjoyed success as a singer over the years, releasing eight studio albums to date. She is best known for the songs ‘Save The Best For Last’, which reached Number One in the US in 1992, and ‘Colors Of The Wind’ from Disney’s Pocahontas, which won an Oscar, a Grammy and a Golden Globe in 1995.