159: Vanessa Williams, Whitney Houston and Hollywood’s Misogynoir Problem (Make Me Over, Episode 8)
In 1983, Vanessa Williams became the first black woman to win Miss America. In 1984, a few weeks from the end of her reign, she was forced to step down when she found out Penthouse was going to publish unauthorized nude images of her in their magazine. Williams went on to have a successful singing career and star in movies, but her career trajectory tells more than the story of a black beauty icon who overcame obstacles to make it in Hollywood. It's a story that echoes the legacies of racism, colorism, tokenism and misogynoir (the misogyny experienced specifically by black women) in 20th century Hollywood and how, as a result, black women — from Williams to Whitney Houston — have had to display exceptional talent to make the case that their images are worth circulating and celebrating as beautiful. This episode was written and performed by Cassie da Costa, an entertainment writer for The Daily Beast. She lives in Ojai, California.
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