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Performing in Florida for the First Time in 10 Years

Regarded as one of the most beautiful women in America, if not the world, Vanessa Williams has conquered the worlds of modeling, acting and music in the time since she broke through to the mainstream. It’s been three decades since she was the first woman with black ancestry to win the title of Miss America, but you wouldn’t know that much time has passed if you look at her; her beauty is timeless and her face hasn’t aged a day.

Well-known for such hits as “The Right Stuff,” “Save the Best for Last,” “Colors of the Wind,” and many others, her personal songbook includes twenty-five years of classics. In fact, she’s one of just a few artists who have scored Top Ten hits on the Billboard pop, dance, R&B, adult contemporary, holiday, Latin, gospel and jazz charts. When it comes to acting, when she’s not performing on Broadway, she can be seen quite often on television. In the past few years alone she’s made star turns on such popular shows as Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives and 666 Park Avenue. She’s even written a book, an autobiography called You Have No Idea, which made The New York Times’ Best-Seller List. On top of all that, she is a staunch LGBT ally and she makes time to volunteer with such organizations as the Human Rights Campaign.
She will be performing a one-woman show the first two months of 2015, and of course she will be stopping in Florida. It’s long overdue, after all; it’s the first time she’s performed in the Sunshine State in ten years. She will be performing in four Vanessa-Willams_copy2cities in four days: first in Sarasota at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall on Friday, January 2 at 8 p.m.; then in Naples at Artis-Naples on Saturday, January 3 at 8 p.m.; followed by an appearance at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach on Sunday, January 4 at 8 p.m.; ending with an appearance at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Monday, January 5 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets for Vanessa Williams’ performances are on sale right now and can be purchased online via vanwezel.org, artisnaples.org, kravis.org and rutheckerdhall.com, or at the venues’ box offices up until the days of the performances. Ticket prices range from $30 (Sarasota), $68 (Naples), $25 (West Palm Beach) and $68.75 (Clearwater).

I got a chance to speak with Vanessa Williams in this exclusive Hotspots interview, conducted just weeks before she comes down to Florida and wows audiences here.

Welcome back to Florida! What are the things you’re most looking forward to going out and doing while you’re here?

We’re literally doing a show and then we’re jumping on a bus and going to the next city. We’re back to back. So I won’t have any time to do anything, but if I do get to catch some rays in the morning, that will be fantastic. Sadly I won’t have lots of time to languish in the Florida sun much.

For people who haven’t seen your one-woman show, what would you tell them about it? What’s in store for them?

I do a majority of my hits. I’m lucky that I got to have some hits back in the day. So there’s “Save the Best for Last,” “Dreamin’,” “Love Is,” “Comfort Zone,” among others…and then I do my Broadway numbers. I’m adding more to my set now. I used to do just two or three songs from Broadway but now that I’m doing more shows, we’ll probably expand that section a little more with things from St. Louis Woman, Showboat, and After Midnight. Then of course there are the crowd-pleasers that everyone waits to hear. My band has been with me since 1997 so we’ve been traveling all over the world and it’ll be a lot of fun to perform here.

Which songs are your favorites and why?

It’s funny. People have asked me, “Do you listen to your own music?” For me, like with a lot of people, you spend a lot of time in the studio creating a song, and it feels like creating a child.

When I hear a song, it takes me back to where I was in my life. How old was I? Where did I live? How many kids did I have? It’s almost like watching an old movie. It brings back a lot of memories. Different songs have different recollections. I can’t choose just one that’s my favorite.

But I will say that when I sing “Save the Best for Last,” at this point it’s pretty much a sing-along. That’s one of those songs that gives people good memories too; if they don’t know the lyrics to all of it, they at least know the tune.

A lot of our readers loved you on Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, and other TV shows. One question I heard over and over again from readers was, “Will Vanessa be on TV anytime soon?”

I would love to be. I don’t know…I don’t have any plans yet. Right now I’m trying to get a couple of different projects greenlit. I haven’t had any success as of yet with those, but pilot season is coming up, who knows if something will come up that interests me? For the past two years I’ve been doing theater, which is nice. I like being back in the theater, but I love TV too and maybe a nice project will fall into my lap very soon.

It looks like Florida will be getting marriage equality very soon!

That’s fantastic news.

How long do you think it will be before marriage equality is the law of the land nationwide?

It’s taken its time but the states are definitely catching up very rapidly. I am optimistic so I hope that by the time President Obama is finished with his term, that it will be law across the country. That would be my wish.

You’ve been an LGBT ally for decades. When did you decide you wanted to use your celebrity status to speak up for LGBT rights?

During the AIDS crisis, back in the ’80s. I got married for the first time in 1987 and I had five people who were in my wedding pass away from AIDS. To have five people to have passed away in and around that time who were dear friends…it was in a time period of fear and hysteria. That was the time when, not just me, but a lot of people decided to be vocal about raising awareness and bringing dignity and justice to people who were living with HIV and AIDS.

I was one of the lucky ones, though. I grew up outside of New York, both of my parents were teachers, and I was raised around people who were gay. My mother had a few gay friends — and by a few, I mean almost ten — so I grew up with a wide variety of examples of gay men in my life who were mentors. I was introduced to my first bottle of big girl perfume by a nice lawyer friend of my parents’. It was either Shalimar or Opium, and it was in this beautiful burgundy and gold decanter. My dad taught him how to drive a stick when he bought a new Porsche!

Then there were my mother’s friends Charles and Allen, and I would go get my hair done at Allen’s salon…I grew up with gay people in my life and it was very distinctly not an issue in our house. There were no questions and no judgment. Then when I majored in musical theater, I was always surrounded by gay people. I was very lucky though, to have parents who were open-minded and educated and very liberal, and raised me to be a great human being.

“Like” Vanessa Williams’ page on Facebook by going to facebook.com/OfficialVanessaWilliams.

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Mike Halterman
Mike Halterman has been the editor of Hotspots Central since its launch in July 2016. He joined the Hotspots Media Group family as editor of Hotspots' South Florida magazine in June 2013. A former "40 Under 40" honoree in The Advocate magazine, Mike lives in the Tampa Bay area.