Vanessa Williams’ new memoir, You Have No Idea, reveals that the beauty queen turned singer turned actress was molested by a family friend at the tender of ten. The book, co-authored by Williams’ mother Helen, also chronicles the rebellious streak that resulted from the abuse (she smoked marijuana and had an abortion as a teen), and how traumatic it was to suddenly remember the incidents of molestation and realize how they’d impacted her. The 49-year-old mother of four also shares that she attracted death threats and criticism from the public during her short run as the first black Miss America. From People:

On The Abuse: 

Vanessa: Family friends who had a daughter invited me to visit their friends in California with them. The family we stayed with had two kids. Susan, who was 18, smoked, drove a car, and was the epitome of cool. (My friend) Nancy and I slept in the den. One night Susan crept in. She told me to lie down on the rug. I was confused. Are we going to play a game? As I tried to make sense of it, Susan pulled down the bloomers of my cotton baby-doll pajamas.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked. ‘Don’t worry – it’ll feel good.’ I lay there paralyzed. What was going on? I didn’t speak. She kept at (the molestation) for I don’t know how long. She slid my bloomers back up and whispered: ‘Don’t tell anyone.’ I climbed into my bed, trying to figure out what had just happened.

For years I kept Susan’s visit to myself. I didn’t really understand until college. I was with with my boyfriend and it hit me and I blurted it out: ‘Oh my god – I was molested!’ After that trip I felt something change in me.

On Being Crowned Miss America:

Vanessa: As the 1983 Miss America put the crown on my head, I had no emotion – I wasn’t very happy. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t there. I just smiled and waved. I had made history, but for some (black people), winning wouldn’t suffice. Some didn’t think I was black enough.

The New York Daily News ran a photo of Bruce (my boyfriend) and me – and the response was, ‘Oh my God! She has a white boyfriend!’ My mother received death threats.

Helen: I was so proud of her. But someone wrote that they were going to throw acid in her face. People sent notes: ‘YOU’RE DEAD, B**CH.’ We were so worried. We had no idea there’d be all this anger and hatred.

You Have No Idea will be released on April 17.

What do you think of Vanessa Williams’ journey? Would you read her memoir?

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