The Real Queen: Vanessa Williams
BY Clay Cane
June 12 2009 12:00 AM ET
Who doesn't love Vanessa Williams? Black, white, straight, gay, country, or suburban, Vanessa Williams transcends every group. This could be the reason why she has survived the entertainment industry for over 26 years and has the résumé to prove it: 14 Grammy nominations; a Tony Award nomination; tons of hit singles, including her legendary pop ballad "Save the Best for Last"; and the 2007 "Ally for Equality" award from the Human Rights Campaign.
The former beauty queen has been a friend and honorary member of the gay community from the start of her career. Her performance as Wilhelmina Slater on Ugly Betty has only catapulted her popularity among gays -- many of whom will protest if she doesn't win an Emmy for the role.
Now, Miss V is taking it back to the music with The Real Thing , in stores now. Here, Vanessa talks about the new album, her history with the gay community, exhaustion with Carrie Prejean (take notes from one of the original beauty queens, Miss Carrie!), and more.
Advocate.com:What is your approach when you go back to the recording studio?Vanessa Williams: It's kind of like jumping back on a bicycle -- once you know how to ride it, it's easy. Luckily, I only worked with one new producer that I had not worked with before. Keith Thomas, he did "Save the Best for Last" and "Colors of the Wind," he is a dear friend. Babyface produced two songs, I've worked with him before and he is a friend as well. Getting into the studio was the easy part, it's just making the time, picking the right material, and the direction the CD was going to be.
You mentioned Babyface. Is it true that while working on the two songs you did with him you were running a gay wedding?Oh yeah! I went to two gay weddings actually. I went into the studio and finished both songs then went to my dear friend Daniel and Rick's wedding, who had gotten married about 10 years ago but made it legal. October was the end date in California. The next day I went to Christopher and Mark's wedding, who was the costume designer for the Hannah Montana movie. They had a beautiful ceremony; Alan Cumming sang a song and Loni Anderson was there. Lovely couple. Quite a weekend!
What can your gay fans expect from the album The Real Thing ?It's about as perky as a jazz album can possibly be! [ Laughs ] My original intent was to do a Brazilian album because I love the feel and sensuality of Brazil and the music. It morphed into some jazz songs. One song we did was a Lena Horne song "Come on Strong," kind of an homage to Wilhelmina, where I am living at every day on the set. It went through a bunch of directions and I think we came out with a taste of everything.