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Everlastingly Lovely

By |2018-01-15T18:02:12-05:00October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

Vanessa Williams has done well for herself. I mean, how many other former Miss America’s can you name? OK, some of you pageant queens out there might be able to name quite a few. But the fact remains, being dethroned for posing inflagrante delicto in Penthouse might have been best thing that ever happened to Williams. It changed her career trajectory from one of a lifetime of ribbon cuttings at Piggy Wiggly stores across the country and catapulted her to fame as a singer, star of stage and screen, and all around solid entertainer.
Four years after losing her jeweled crown, Williams found gold – a gold record, that is. Her debut album for Mercury Records, “The Right Stuff,” spawned the number one R&B single “Dreamin'” which also hit the top 10 on the pop and adult contemporary charts. Her follow up album went multi-platinum and featured the smash, “Save The Best For Last,” which went gold as a single and hit the number one spot on all three charts.
From records, Williams segued to a sensational career in television and eventually films. She won an NAACP Image Award for her role in 1997’s “Soul Food,” the year after she starred in the big screen blockbuster “Eraser” with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 1993, Williams reached a new career goal while revisiting an old dream, and the girl who signed her high school yearbook with the phrase “see you on Broadway” debuted there in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” for which she won a Theatre World Award. In 2002, she returned to Broadway in “Into the Woods,” earning a Tony nomination in the process.
Somewhere in between it all, Williams took time out to start a family. But the fact that she has four children has not slowed her down at all. Last year, she signed a new record deal with Lava Records. The label asked Williams to do a series of themed albums, starting with last year’s Christmas album, “Silver and Gold.” The second in the series is Williams’ newest project. “Everlasting Love” is a collection of 14 classic love songs from the 70s. Produced by Rob Mathes, the album shows that Williams, at 41, has still got ‘the right stuff.’ For the most part, Williams stays clear of songs that are too closely associated with any artist (the one exception here is Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” the album’s weakest track) and stamps her own signature on such staples as Al Wilson’s “Show and Tell,” The Stylistics’ “You Are Everything” and the title track, originally by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, on which Williams’ soaring falsetto reaches heights reminiscent of the late Minnie Ripperton.
“Some [songs] are personal favorites of mine, and others were suggested by the record company,” Williams said in an interview recently circulated to the gay press. “I had my list of songs that were from my record collection at my parent’s house. I even went home on a Sunday afternoon and set up my turntable and made a little mix tape like I used to do when I was in 7th and 8th grade.”
In the interview, Williams also sounded off on gay issues, including the hot topic of the moment, marriage equality for gays.
“I have no problem with it,” she said. “I completely support it. I have many gay friends that are married. Close male friends of mine have been living together as a couple for over 20 years, and they have adopted a beautiful baby girl who is now three years old. They are fantastic parents. Other gay couples I know are also looking to adopt, and then I have single gay friends who are adoptive parents.”
So what would Williams do if she found out one of her own children was gay?
“Well, I would probably immediately get on the hot line to all of my gay friends – we’d have a group meeting,” she laughed. “I probably would have sensed some signs early on, but I would say, ‘You’re going to have a difficult time ahead because you’re going to be perceived as different. And you’re going to have to be strong, and just remember we love you and support you.’ Again, the support network would be so strong. There would be no way that I could be hypocritical. When you grow up as a dancer and in the theater you are surrounded by gay people. My kids have also been surrounded by gay people their whole lives. They are so loving and welcoming, they don’t even question it.”
Williams also said she wouldn’t hesitate to play a lesbian if the right part came along.
“If the role is great and the writing is great, absolutely,” she said.
One thing Williams was not able to answer with certainty, though, is what it is about her style that gay folks find so pleasing. But she did have a theory.
“What probably works for me as a singer when I record is that I can use my acting ability to be a storyteller,” she said. “I think that ‘Save the Best for Last’ did well not only because it was a well-written song and was very sentimental, but people could hear me smile while I was singing. They could connect with the wistfulness and the longing, which as a singer all comes from being able to do my acting homework. It’s more than vocal acrobatics or how long I can hold the note. I try to make it as intimate as possible. When you tell a story and you make people feel, that’s what works for me.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.