Today's Pride of Bed-Stuy: Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams was awarded the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series

Singer, songwriter and actress Vanessa Williams was born and raised in the Bedford Stuyvesant.

At age 11, Vanessa Williams became a member of the New York City Opera's Children's Chorus. Vanessa then signed with a talent manager and booked her first audition, a commercial for Frito Lay. Her pattern for success clearly set, her winning streak had only just begun.

After graduating from New York's famed LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts, she earned a bachelor's degree in theatre and business from Marymount Manhattan College.

In 1984, Williams landed a recurring role on "The Cosby Show" as Theo's scene partner in a school play-- a high-strung student named Jade Marsh. So impressed with her work, Bill Cosby asked her back to play yet another role, Theo's girlfriend Cheryl Lovejoy, a sweet young thing from Barbados.

Her New York stage credits grew to include the Lincoln Center production of Death and the King's Horseman and the Broadway productions of Sarafina and Mule Bone, the Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston collaboration.

In 1991, in the movie New Jack City,  her first feature film, Vanessa plays Keisha, the gun toting head of security opposite Wesley Snipes as drug czar Nino Brown.

Vanessa arrived in LA in September of 1991, "just to check it out." A month later she was cast as single mother Anna-Marie McCoy in the Gothic horror film, Candyman. She made her west coast move official in January of 1992, and became a media darling when she hit the media radar as one of the stars in the Fox TV hit "Melrose Place" .

After residence on "Melrose Place", Vanessa traveled to Spain to sing and host the variety show Grand Fiesta on the Telecinco network in Madrid. Back from Europe she was immediately cast as a series regular in Steven Bochco's critically acclaim television drama "Murder One,” where she earned her first NAACP Image Award Nomination.

In 1993, Williams met Andre Wiseman. The couple began dating and then got married in Stuyvesant, New York.

Williams also appeared opposite Lisa Kudrow in the Albert Brooks feature Mother, and then went on location in South Africa to star in “A Woman of Color”, a film written and directed by Oscar nominated director, Bernard Joffa. She followed these projects with a ten-episode arc on "Chicago Hope,” where she was again nominated for an NAACP Image Award.

Vanessa starred in two BET original made for TV movies: Incognito (1999) (TV) and Playing with Fire (2000) (TV), and as guest star on "Total Recall" (1994), "The Pretender" (1996), "NYPD Blue" (1993), "The Steve Harvey Show" (1996), "Malcolm & Eddie" (1996), and "Living Single" (1993), "Cold Case" (2003) among other others.

In 2007, Wiseman and Williams filed for divorce.

In 2000, She starred opposite her soon to be "Soul Food" costar Rockmond Dunbar in Punks, the award-winning feature film directed by Patrik-Ian Polk, which premiered at The Sundance Film Festival.

She earned a Daytime Emmy Nomination for her work in Our America, a Showtime original movie which also premiered at Sundance the following year. As hot mama, Maxine Chadway, in the hit Showtime series "Soul Food" (2000), Williams was awarded the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series.

Vanessa is also a talented writer who has written a collection of poetry and prose titled Shine. Her poems and essays have also appeared in Essence Magazine.

In 2007, Williams married her former Melrose Place costar John Marshall Jones. The couple has three children; daughter Andrea Wiseman (from Williams's marriage to Andre Wiseman), son John Marshall Jones, Jr., and another son William Jones.

Vanessa Williams, as a triple threat – writer, singer and actress-- we acknowledge your enormous talent and contribution to film.

*Sources, IMdb, wikipedia


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