Life 101…Personally Speaking is an educational yet informal interview program hosted on the campus of Nova Southeastern University.
Vanessa Williams is one of the most respected and multi-faceted performers in entertainment today. She has conquered the musical charts, Broadway, music videos, television and motion pictures. She has sold over four million albums worldwide and her skills as an actress on stage, in film and on television have earned praise from the most seasoned of critics.
Vanessa launched her recording career in 1988 with her first album, “The Right Stuff,” which went gold and earned her first three Grammy Award nominations. Her 1991 multi-million selling follow-up, “The Comfort Zone,” which featured the unforgettable “Save the Best For Last,” and her third album, “The Sweetest Days,” each yielded multiple hits and Grammy nominations. She was nominated for yet another Grammy for her hit single “Colors of the Wind,” from Disney’s “Pocahontas,” which went on to win an Academy Award, Golden Globe and the Grammy for Best Song in a Motion Picture. Her first Christmas album, 1996’s “Star Bright,” earned Vanessa her ninth Grammy nomination Following the release of “Vanessa Williams Greatest Hits: The First Ten Years,” Vanessa appeared with Tony Bennett, Placido Domingo and Charlotte Church on the 2001 holiday release, “Our Favorite Things.” Following the release of “Vanessa Williams Greatest Hits: The First Ten Years,” Vanessa appeared with Tony Bennett, Placido Domingo and Charlotte Church on the 2001 holiday release, “Our Favorite Things.” Her recent holiday album, “Silver and Gold,” brought Vanessa to Broadway once again, with a limit concert engagement at the famed Palace Theatre in December. Her most recent release, “Everlasting Love,” a romantic collection of her favorite love songs from the 1970’s, is currently available on Lava Records, a division of the Warner Music Group. “Everlasting Love” features sultry renditions of some of the 70’s most celebrated love songs including the album’s gorgeous first single and Regina Bell classic “You Are Everything.” It also features hits recorded by some of the biggest selling artists of the era, including The Jackson 5, Melissa Manchester, Ohio Players, Isley Brothers and Stevie Wonder and such classic tracks as “One Less Bell To Answer,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” “Show And Tell,” and “Harvest For The World” among others. Other highlights from the album include the George Benson duet “With You I’m Born Again,” and “I’ll Be Good To You,” featuring James D-Train Williams.
In 1994, Vanessa took Broadway by storm when she replaced Chita Rivera in “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Her performance won critics over and was a box-office sensation. Her initial three-month commitment turned into a nine-month run in the musical, firmly establishing Vanessa as a multi-talented triple-threat. Vanessa recently starred in the Tony Award-winning revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s “Into the Woods,” garnering rave reviews and sold-out houses in Los Angeles before she and the cast took the show to Broadway in May, 2002.
She earned her first Tony Award nomination, for Best Actress in a Musical, one of the 10 nominations for “Into the Woods.” She took a brief break from the production to headline a limited special engagement of the classic, “Carmen Jones,” at the Kennedy Center, playing to sold-out houses and achieving glowing notices.
Vanessa has played diverse roles on television, in such productions as “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” “The Boy Who Loved Christmas” and “The Jacksons: An American Dream,” for which she won an NAACP Image Award. She commanded rave reviews for her performance in ABC’s revival of “Bye, Bye Birdie” and starred in the mini-series “Nothing Lasts Forever” and the Emmy-nominated “The Odyssey,” which also garnered impressive ratings and an Image Award nomination for Vanessa.
Vanessa starred opposite John Lithgow in TNT’s “Don Quixote” and she executive produced and starred in “The Courage To Love” for Lifetime Television. She starred in the VH1 Original Movie, “A Diva’s Christmas Carol,” which was the highest rated movie ever for VH1, their second highest rated telecast overall of in 2000 and their fourth highest rated telecast of all time. She hosted “Style World” on WE Women’s Entertainment and joined Eartha Kitt as one of the voices for Fox Television’s animated holiday special, “Santa Baby.” She co-starred in the Showtime movie about the life of Adam Clayton Powell, entitled “Keep the Faith, Baby.” She was seen most recently on the critically-acclaimed NBC drama, “Boomtown,” and will be seen next in the new UPN mid-season series, “ South Beach.”
On film, Vanessa starred opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Warner Bros.’ action thriller, “Eraser,” followed by a leading role opposite Laurence Fishburne and Andy Garcia in “Hoodlum” and an NAACP Image Award winning performance with the box-office hit, “Soul Food.” She has starred in the romantic dance-musical “Dance With Me,” “Light It Up,” “The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland” and in Paramount Pictures’ summer blockbuster, “Shaft,” opposite Samuel L. Jackson. She recently co-starred in “Johnson Family Vacation” with Cedric the Entertainer and Steve Harvey and has completed a starring role in the upcoming independent feature, “My Brother.”
Among Vanessa’s many awards and honors, she was honored in 1996 with the coveted Lena Horne Career Achievement Award at the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards. Vanessa’s charitable contributions are many and varied, embracing and supporting such issues as education, homelessness, abuse, women’s issues, AIDS and anything having to do with children. Specifically, she is actively involved with such organizations as Green Chimneys, a working farm in Westchester County that provides educational and residential programs to help troubled inner-city adolescents; The Open Door, which provides walk-in medical care for homeless families; The Cottage School for displaced young women and the Special Olympics, among many others.
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