The Real Queen: Vanessa Williams
BY Clay Cane
June 12 2009 12:00 AM ET
When did you first realize you had a gay following?Probably in college! [ Laughs ] I've danced and done theater my entire life. Even high school, back in the late '70s and early '80s, when people, especially in high school, were not out -- there were my couple of friends that were not out that would always hang out with the black girls and eventually came out. In college I was a music theater major; a lot of my friends were out and helped make me be who I am, but also are my dearest friends. I have three friends that I have on speed-dial and probably e-mail on a daily basis for not only personal reasons but career advice. When I do a benefit, "Do you think this is a good song to sing?" "Will this go over well?" "What do you think about this project?" I trust their opinion because they are schooled, smart, witty, cultured, and have a wicked sense of humor. They are also fantastic friends that are loyal and appreciate everything that I am.
But I am one of the lucky people -- growing up, my mom had gay friends. So I grew up having my mom's relationships with gay menâ€¦ something that was completely normal, natural, fun, and exciting. I remember the gifts I would always get were fabulous! [ Laughs ] My first bottle of perfume was Opium, which was very classy; from one of my mom's friends who was a lawyerâ€¦ his apartment was always phenomenal. He bought a Porsche -- but didn't know how to drive it -- because it was gorgeous to look at it. So my dad taught him how to drive a stick-shift. That love for beauty and aesthetic is something that I've always felt comfortable with and was always surrounded by.
I am one of the lucky few. You hear so many tragic stories of people not being able to be who they are. Thank God the tables are turning. Every day there is another obstacle that people are confronting -- now is the time to have open dialogue. If it's not gay marriage, if it's not gays in the military, there is always something in the forefront and I think that's fantastic. Dialogue with education is how you get power.
Have you every experienced any flack for being so supportive of the gay community?Not to my face. I've never experienced that and it would be kind of crazy. Even when I won Miss America back in 1983, they don't tell you, "This is what you have to say when people ask you a question." I was always very clear of what my personal beliefs are. There was no real platform. I was pro-choice back in '83 when it was considered scandalous for Miss America to actually have an opinion.
What do you think about this controversy with Carrie Prejean, who said she was not for gay marriage?Do we really care what she has to think or say? I'm surprised that it has gotten as far as it has. She's not a legislator. Do we really care? Is it going to make a difference? I think everyone should continue to fight the good fight on equality. Iowa just passed. Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, it's happening, slowly but surely. We just had a huge rally in New York. Let the foot soldiers do the work. Why give her any more credence?