She went from being Miss America – to being the first lady.
Vanessa Williams plays the role of the first lady in Broadway’s “POTUS” —Dor has been collecting materials her whole life.
“I’ve met five first ladies in my life, and it was absolutely phenomenal, so I have a great history to draw from,” the 59-year-old told The Post via Zoom on Friday. “Because they are all wonderful, graceful, intelligent, enthusiastic, dedicated women.”
Her first encounter with the other half of the president came after her coronation as Miss America in 1983—when she attended the state dinner at the White House and met President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy.
In the nominated play Three Tony Awardsaudiences never see the President, but they learn a saucy truth about him – that a young woman, played by Julianne Hough, is pregnant.
The “Save the Best for Last” actress and singer — who invited her Chappaqua neighbor Hillary Clinton to watch the show — brushed off any hint of sarcasm.
“But you know what…there was a lot of scandals, JFK, I mean, there was a scandal across the board,” she said.
One of the latest scandals to rock the Great White Road is a leaked cell phone video and nude photos of Jesse Williams in Take Me Out. A mother of four and a first-time grandmother says this is par for the course and “part of the risk of doing a show where you’re all front and back.”
The former pageant queen understands the risks first-hand, after nude photos surfaced of her after she won Miss America, which eventually led her to resign.
In fact, she first received word of her “penthouse” photos being made public without her permission from a New York Post reporter during an interview in 1984 – which was also about a woman in the White House.
“Geraldine Ferraro was vying for the position of Vice President… It was July 13, Friday 13 July, when I did the interview… In the end, he said, ‘Oh, by the way, we heard from a reliable source.’ And I said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Williams, who won the Miss America title while still a student at Syracuse University, said she did not face the same pressures as other beauty contests.
This was because the Bronx native, who grew up in Melwood, had won the title after participating in a few competitions, including Miss New York, a title she had only received a few months before from Miss America.
She met the winner of the Miss Universe title Chelsea Crestwho committed suicide in January by jumping from her Midtown building, when an Extra correspondent gave her a virtual interview in 2020.
“I interviewed her during the pandemic,” she said. “But I had no idea. She didn’t seem to have any mental issues she was dealing with at all. So I have no idea what was going on in her life, but to take your life this way, it’s a very powerful declaration of a desire to be seen and heard” .
For her character, Margaret, whom Williams calls a “badass,” the actress does her own makeup. As for accessories, she drew inspiration from real-life White House women.
“The triple strand of pearls is definitely Barbara Bush,” she said. “The headband I wear in the second semester, Hillary went through her headband phase. The suit, I think Michelle Obama is probably the only first lady to ever wear a jumpsuit.”
And speaking of iconic accessories, Williams still holds the Miss America crown in a box at home. “I resigned, no one came to my house to take off my throne,” she said with a laugh.