Listen to your mother!
I have always been fascinated by Vanessa Williams. I first heard of her existence when she was crowned the first black Miss America, and was subsequently stripped of her title after the Penthouse photos came out. I was eleven at the time, and I took the view that any sheltered, self-righteous Catholic schoolgirl would -- serves her right, what a hussy! I was amazed that she rose out of the ashes of that scandal and forged a successful singing and acting career.
As I grew up and as my own views of the world changed, so did my opinion of Vanessa Williams. If the Penthouse scandal were happening to her today, I would throw my full support behind her. These days, people can't wait to bare it all, make sex tapes, even dress their four year olds in prostitute clothing for the sake of a beauty title! I think Vanessa Williams is an amazing woman (and the only person I can imaging playing Willie Slater) who got a bad rap when she was younger, and I admire her for putting it all behind her and moving on.
As a member of the BlogHer Book Club, I recently read Vanessa's memoir, You Have No Idea, which talks about how she went from becoming a regular teenager to a beauty queen to a pariah to a Grammy winner to an actress, wife and mom. It reads like a Cinderella novel -- but what makes it really interesting is that she co-wrote it with her mother, Helen Williams. Helen alternates chapters with her daughter and gives her own perspective as Vanessa's life unfolds. She talks about Vanessa's childhood and rise to stardom, Vanessa's marriages, and yes, those nude photos. "Listen to your mother" is a strong theme that runs throughout the book, and certainly if Vanessa had listened to hers, those photos would never have been taken. But you also get the sense that the Vanessa is as headstrong, stubborn and determined as her mother, which is why she didn't listen to Helen in the first place. And it's those same qualities that helped Vanessa overcome her obstacles and become as successful as she is today. I guess listening to your mother isn't all that it's cracked up to be, huh? But don't tell that to my daughter!
The BlogHer Book Club will be discussing You Have No Idea for the next month. Get your own copy of You Have No Idea (it's perfect for Mother's Day!), see what other BlogHer Book Club members have to say about the book, and join in the conversation!
Disclosure: This is a compensated review for the BlogHer Book Club. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.
posted on Thursday, May 03, 2012