Chappaqua resident Vanessa Williams releases revealing memoir
In her new memoir, “You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other),” Vanessa Williams and her mother, Helen, look back on Williams’ life and career, which took her from Westchester County to Hollywood and back again. Williams, who resides in Chappaqua, reveals many details about her personal life in the memoir. Here are three tidbits:
1. She has a lifelong connection to Westchester
When Williams was born in Millwood, N.Y., in 1963, her birth announcement prophetically announced “Here She Is -- Miss America!” Her parents decided to settle in Millwood after they “circled an area between their teaching jobs -- Mom in Ossining and Dad in Elmsford.”
Even though she and her brother Chris were often the only black children in their classes, and she was “the first black student to matriculate from kindergarten through 12th grade in the Chappaqua School District,” Williams has pleasant memories of her childhood spent in Westchester County.
She relocated to Los Angeles once her career took off, but after the L.A. riots in 1992, she moved back east to Chappaqua, one town over from Millwood. While her career often has her living a bicoastal existence, her four children -- Melanie, Jillian, Devin and Sasha -- have grown up in Westchester County, just like their mother.
2. She keeps it all in the family
Williams has amicable relationships with ex-husbands Ramon Hervey and former NBA star Rick Fox. (Hervey is the father of Williams’ oldest three children; Fox is the father of youngest daughter, Sasha.)
Both exes are in attendance at all birthdays and holidays, and once jointly chaperoned a ski trip with the children without Williams. To give an idea of how friendly she is with her former spouses, Williams reveals that Hervey has stayed as a houseguest in the Chappaqua home for several months, and that Fox guest-starred on her hit TV show “Ugly Betty” after their split. (This despite the fact that Fox announced his divorce to the press before telling his wife.)
3. She is extremely close with her mother
Williams wrote her memoir with her mother, with the senior Williams providing commentary on her daughter’s major life events, such as her Miss America coronation and scandal, career triumphs, marriages and divorces.
So it’s not surprising that that Willams based her iconic “Ugly Betty” character Wilhelmina Slater on the opinionated family matriarch. In her book, Vanessa says, “[The] eye-cutting stares? Her exasperation? Her don’t-mess-with-me attitude? I didn’t have to look far for inspiration.”
Helen Williams is fiercely protective of her daughter, and in the book she reveals what she calls “my list.” These are people she dislikes for making negative comments about her daughter, and they include Joan Rivers, Miss America pageant officials and co-hosts of “The View.”
After her husband, Milton, passed away in 2006, Helen moved from Millwood to Chappaqua and is now her daughter’s neighbor. At the end of the memoir, she says that she is proud of all that her daughter has accomplished, and admits that "in my next life I want Vanessa to be my mother."