In 2008, Vanessa was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Ugly Betty.
She was nominated, along with her Ugly Betty castmates, for a SAG Award in the category of Outstanding Ensemble in a Comedy Series in 2008.
In 2008, she won the NAACP Award as the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her performance in Ugly Betty.
Her nicknames include "Van", "Ness" and "V".
She produced, co-wrote and directed the short film Denise.
As well as acting and singing, she is also a producer. In 2000, she was the executive producer of her TV movie The Courage to Love alongside Gil Bellows.
In her spare time, she likes to figure-skate and cook, as well as go horseback riding.
She appeared in a 2004 drama pilot for UPN called Beck and Call alongside David Conrad. It wasn't picked up.
She only got the role of Wilhemina Slater on Ugly Betty after Charlotte Ross dropped out to star in an ABC sitcom pilot. Unluckily for Ross, the pilot wasn't picked up, whilst Ugly Betty became one of the most successful new shows of the 2006-2007 season.
She was nominated for a Best Performance by a Leading Actress In a Musical award at the 2002 Tony Awards, for her role in the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods.
She was once the spokesperson for Proactiv Solution.
Her brother is actor Chris Williams, who memorably played rap star Krazee-Eyez Killa on the HBO comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Her parents are music teachers Milton and Helen Williams. Milton passed away in January 2006.
She was crowned Miss New York in 1983.
Her biggest music hit was the pop ballad Save the Best for Last, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for five consecutive weeks in early 1992.
She won the Best Actress award at the NAACP Image Awards in 1998 for her role in the movie Soul Food.
She was introduced to former husband Rick Fox by model Tyra Banks.
During her music career, she was nominated for fifteen Grammy awards.
She is good friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger, who she worked with on the 1996 thriller Eraser.
She has had eight successful albums, with two going gold, and another two going platinum. In total, she has sold over 16 million records.
She resigned from her title as Miss America 1984 after private nude photos were leaked to Penthouse magazine.
Has a daughter, Sasha (born 2000), with her former husband, actor and sports star Rick Fox. She has three other children, Melanie (born 1987), Jillian (born 1989) and Devin (born 1993), with her ex-husband Ramon Hervey.
She is often confused with the other Vanessa Williams, best known for her roles on Melrose Place and the movie Candyman. Making matters even more confusing, both Vanessa's are connected to Soul Food, with Vanessa L. Williams appearing in the movie and Vanessa Williams appearing in the TV series.
When Vanessa was born, her parents sent out a birth annoucement that read "Here she is, Miss America" and on September 17, 1983 she became the first black woman to be crowned "Miss America"."
Vanessa Williams turned down the lead role in the movie "Monster Ball" because of the full frontal nudity in the script. Halle Berry got the part and won an Oscar.
Vanessa: I believe that the older you get, the more fearless you become.
Vanessa: (on men, and similarities between her and Wilhelmina) Well, I don't run through men like Wilhelmina, for sure. I've got great male friends but, unfortunately, nothing is going on at this point. I don't know if I have time to dedicate myself to a relationship, especially being bicoastal. And when I am home, it's all about the kids.
Vanessa: (on the difference between her and Wilhelmina) I have four kids whom I love to cook for and am there for and am warm and fuzzy with. They sleep in my bed sometimes! Wilhelmina has a very strained relationship with her daughter.
Vanessa: (on living in New York, and working in Los Angeles) It's all how you look at it. You can say with dread that I have to get on a plane every weekend. Or you can say that I get to do crossword puzzles, watch a movie, take a nap and go over my lines. At this point, I think it is the best of both worlds.
Vanessa: (on what's next for Wilhelmina) Her never-ending quest for youth and power hits new highs… and lows. She feels that the editor-in-chief job is just within her reach and she's willing to do anything to get it, so no one at Mode is safe.
Vanessa: (on botox) Sure, not as preparation to get into the character, but I did it after I turned 40. But I told the doctor: "My face has got to move. I am not looking for perfection, I am looking for refreshment."
Vanessa: (on fan reaction to her character, Wilhelmina) It's hard to understand the scope of it. I live in a town outside of New York where I'm known as my kid's mom. A lot of my friends, who are also moms, are too busy to watch it. When I really see the effect is when I'm walking through an airport. The security person will say, "I love your show. And girl, where do you get those outfits?"
Vanessa: (On playing divas) I've definitely done well with them, so I embrace them for sure. And they are a lot more fun to play than the realistic stuff.
Vanessa: Success is the best revenge.