Vanessa L. Williams, not to be confused with the actress Vanessa A. Williams, is more than just a triple threat. The actress, singer, and dancer is now branching into fashion with V. by Vanessa Williams. She also adds writer to the list with a book teaming her up with mother Helen Williams.
Williams is a Grammy nominated singer for hits like "The Right Stuff," "Save the Best for Last," and "Colors of the Wind." Her awards continue with Tony nominations, Emmy nominations, seven NAACP Image Awards, and four Satellite Awards.
Her television shows include Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives and The Good Wife, among others. She returns next year with a Star Jones vehicle called Satan's Sisters, based on The View. In addition, the former Miss America has starred in multiple theater roles in Kiss of the Spider Woman and Into the Woods. Movies in her vast career include Soul Food, Dance With Me and My Brother.
At a recent UNICEF fundraiser event at The Geragthy we caught up with her on the blue carpet.
Windy City Times: Hi, Vanessa. How are you doing?
Vanessa Williams: Pretty good. My plane was delayed but no major snow to keep me away. I was here last week for snow and I see the snow is still on the ground. It is springtime but I am glad to be here in Chicago.
WCT: How did you become involved with UNICEF?
VW: They called me up. I happened to be available. I am a mother of four. My children have always been my priority. I travel a lot. I extensively tend to meet people and I am drawn to children. I have a worldwide scope, both physically and historically.
WCT: When did you realize you had a gay following?
VW: Probably in middle school [laughs] when I started doing theater! I danced my whole life but when I started acting then I noticed all my friends were fantastic, well-read and gave me great advicethen, I knew. We are talking the '70s, so not a lot of people were out. When I looked back, all of my guy friends from high school were fabulous men. I loved them deeply.
WCT: You have been a big supporter for gay marriage in the past.
WCT: Do you want to do more Broadway?
VW: Yes. I have been doing a lot of benefits. I did a 50th anniversary show for Roundabout Theatre. I sang with Norm Lewis. I saw Barbara Cook. She gave me her new memoir called Then and Now. I have an exclusive because it doesn't come out for a few months from now. I just finished reading it on the way here. I will be doing my notes in the back of the book.
It boggles the mind when you major in musical theaterstudying Sondheim and all of these classical pieces with Barbara being in the original cast of Music Manand then they call and invite you over to their homes. They recognize you and suddenly you are part of the "in crowd." It still flabbergasts me. Every time I walk into Stephen Sondheim's house I think, "Is this really happening?"
WCT: I want to see that house! Your nephew was just performing in Aurora at the Paramount Theater and I saw on social media you came out to support him.
VW: Yes; he is playing Tony [in West Side Story]. Will did a phenomenal job and has a gorgeous voice. I am married to his uncle Jim, who has been on Broadway, so the fact that he is a musical-theater guy is a great combination.
WCT: Your new fashion line is debuting this year?
VW: Yeah, I did it last month and sold out. We are doing really well. I am going back to Minnesota to add more pieces to the line. It is sold on Evine, a home network.
WCT: You are returning to TV with Satan's Sisters?
VW: Yes, we start filming in August in Atlanta. I have only seen the pilot, which is what I agreed to do but they are getting the writer's room together, and starting to cast. I am in contact with Star Jones on a weekly basis. We are trying to figure out what studio we will be at and setting up shop.
WCT: How do you pick a script?
VW: I like to do what is fun on the page. I read a script, and things that excite me or get a laugh out loud is something I tend to gravitate toward. At my age, 53, you go through being the young ingenue to playing a mom to now playing a character. You are seen differently and don't have to worry about being the young attractive thing and can lose yourself to what is on the page.
WCT: I heard you are reuniting with the Ugly Betty cast.
VW: We will be in Austin the second week of June. America [Ferrara, who played Betty] got the request and, of course, did a mass email. Everyone was in! We keep in touch and see each othernot a lot, but we love each other.
WCT: Michael Urie told me about that.
VW: Did you see his show? I saw it three times.
WCT: His one-man show was great. Are you doing anything fun while in town?
VW: I just went to the Ralph Lauren restaurant for the first time. I'm getting some deep-dish pizza delivered to me tonight after I am performing tonight, from Giordano's. That is it for this trip!
Visit vanessawilliams.com to keep up with the diva.
Related item at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Vanessa-Williams-performs-at-UNICEF-gala/54933.html .