Vanessa Williams returned to the Miss America competition as a judge this year but before she took her seat, she received a public apology from the organization’s chief executive.
“I have been a close friend of this beautiful and talented lady for 32 years. You have lived your life in grace and dignity, and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned,” CEO Sam Haskell told Williams on stage.
“Though none of us currently in the organization were involved then, on behalf of today’s organization, I want to apologize to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams. I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America you are, and the Miss America you always will be,” he added.
Haskell and Williams received a standing ovation as the cameras panned over to Williams’ mother, who appeared to be on the verge of tears.
Williams made history when she became the first African-American contestant to be crowned Miss America in 1983. However, she had to give up her crown the following year, almost seven weeks before the end of her reign, when nude photos of her were published in Penthouse magazine without her consent.
As for this year’s winner, 21-year-old Betty Cantrell of Georgia was crowned the 2016 Miss America.