TF: What is your most fond memory of performing in Phoenix or the surrounding area?
VW: Performing at the Superbowl in 1996 when the Cowboys defeated the Steelers. I got a chance to sing the National Anthem which was amazing and included fireworks and jets and a sea of people that was kind of an out of body experience because it was so larger than life. It’s one of those accomplishments you can click off the career saying you sung the anthem at the Superbowl. The entertainment for the Halftime that year included Diana Ross who arrived in a helicopter onto the 50-yard line.
TF: A woman of many talents as a musical artist, live performer, actor in film, stage, voice acting and an author, what have you enjoyed the most and why?
VW: I like the creative process. So I enjoy every bit of it. But I would say the one that allows me to do everything at the same time is musicals on Broadway because I have a live audience. I’m playing a character, I sing and I dance, and it’s with great material with a great ensemble. And, I get a chance to make it new and fresh every night.
TF: Already accomplishing so much, what are the main things you are focusing on in your career right now?
With her mind seeming to race over a zillion things, the constantly busy superstar manages to dwindle it down…
VW: I just finished writing a children’s book that will be out next spring. That’s my first. It also has a recording that goes with it. I’m about to go to the West End On London to work on a musical called City of Angels (https://www.whatsonstage.com/
Even though Williams is a seasoned professional that has been at it for decades in the entertainment industry, I commend her on her ability to juggle so much of what she does at a high level before continuing. She is one of the world’s most accomplished concert artists, appearing regularly with the most prestigious symphony orchestras in the world – most recently with the National Symphony Orchestra at The Kennedy Center.
TF: What does it mean to you when you learn that America’s three major 2019 pageant winners were all Black women being that you were the first to win Miss America 1984 back in 1983 kicking down that door?
Nia Franklin, 25, became Miss America in September, followed by Kaliegh Garris, 18, as Miss Teen USA, and Cheslie Kryst, 28, as Miss USA.
VW: Well, it means that I’m old (laughs), considering that was 36 years ago. I’m happy that going from the first (Black woman) to having three different categories, it’s a great time for women that are my children’s age to know that there are no limits and that there are so many images of Black beauty which have achieved, conquered, are accepted and revered.
TF: Fans have enjoyed so much you have done from music hits like “The Right Stuff” and “Colors of the Wind” to a memorable episode on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” memorable scenes in movies like Soul Food (with the knife) and action movies like Eraser with Arnold Schwarzenegger. What would you say are your main three career highlights that you are most proud of?
VW: Three highlights would probably be singing “Colors of the Wind” for the Academy Awards in 1996 and having the song win and being acknowledged. That was very cool. Opening night on Broadway in 1994 starring in Kiss of the Spider Woman, because I grew up wanting to be on Broadway. Always seeing Broadway I knew that was a tangible goal for me to have my name in lights and have my family and friends there to enjoy it with me. That was a dream come true. Let’s see… there’s so many, but hearing my voice for the first time on the radio was something that I never thought would ever happen in my life!
TF: Your daughter is pretty amazing too!
Williams is the mother of four – Melanie, Jillian, Devin and Sasha. Jillian Hervey is part of the music duo Lion Babe with record producer Lucas Goodman.
VW: Yes! By having one of my daughter’s follow in my footsteps it’s like a family business (laughs).
TF: And what do you want to be most remembered for?
VW: I want to be remembered for persevering through obstacles assumptions and labels and always fighting to be seen as no one else than myself and also for my authenticity.
Indeed! Vanessa Williams has shown and proven her whole career that she is a queen with a crown no one will ever be able to take from her. Showtime is 7:30pm.
Visit azmusicfest.org or call 480-422-8449. Use discount code VW2 to receive 20% off your ticket price.