No one knew for sure what would happen when Vanessa Williams rejoined the Miss America organization Sunday night as a new pageant queen was crowned. We were pretty sure an apology would happen but bets were placed on whether Williams would apologize for the nude Penthouse shoot that caused her to resign in 1984 or the organization would acknowledge the error of their ways 32 years ago.
The latter is what happened and most viewers were grateful the Miss America organization redeemed themselves for the perceived “racist” wrong that caused them to push Williams out. But then one critic decided an apology wasn’t actually warranted at all. In an opinion piece on The Root, contributing editor Demetria Lucas D’Oyley wrote:
“Knowing that I will likely be reamed for saying this, because Williams is a talented actress, singer and a beloved celebrity—especially in the black community—I’m saying it anyway: She deserved to be forced to resign, and the Miss America organization didn’t owe her an apology.”
Citing the lasciviousness of the photos which cost Williams her crown some 30-plus years ago, D’Oyley added:
“[W]hen you’re the of-any-color face of a family-friendly organization such as Miss America and those racy photos that you took become public, your image is no longer in line with the mission of the organization. Her image didn’t fit the position she held. Images matter. Ask anyone on Instagram.
“Yes, Williams was barely legal when those pictures were taken. I read in a 1984 article in People magazine that she naively believed that the images would be in silhouette and her face would not be shown. Williams was a young girl who made a series of bad decisions. (She did two nude photo shoots, not one.) And the cost was being asked to step down as Miss America. It was a hard way to learn a necessary lesson about actions and consequences. There was no need for the Miss America organization to apologize for teaching it to her.”
While you’d likely be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t agree that “full-frontal and dominatrix action” aren’t exactly befitting of a pageant queen, the question still remains if such harsh punishment would’ve been handed down for a white Miss America in Williams’ shoes. Noting Williams’ replacement after her 10-month reign, Suzette Charles, was also black, D’Oyley answers that question with a strong yes. But is she right?