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Vanessa A. Williams

Vanessa A. Williams (born May 12, 1963) is an American actress and producer. She is best known for her roles as Maxine Joseph–Chadway in the Showtime drama series, Soul Food (2000–04), for which she received NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series and as Nino Brown's feisty gun moll, Keisha in the 1991 crime drama film, New Jack City. Williams also is known for role as Anne-Marie McCoy in the 1992 horror film Candyman and as Rhonda Blair in the first season of the Fox prime time television soap opera, Melrose Place (1992–93).

Vanessa A. Williams
Nicole Ari-Parker and Vanessa A. Williams.jpg
Williams (left) with Nicole Ari Parker in 2011.
Born (1963-05-12) May 12, 1963 (age 56)
EducationMarymount Manhattan College
Years active1989–present
Andre Wiseman
(m. 1993; separated 2018)

Life and careerEdit

Williams was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York.[1] In an ABC News interview, she stated that she can trace her ancestry back to Georgia and Virginia.[2] After high school she went on to get a bachelor's degree in theater and business management from Marymount Manhattan College.[3] In 1993, Williams met Andre Wiseman and they began dating, then married in Stuyvesant, New York. They have one son together. She is the cousin of former 106 and park host Free Marie.

Williams later went to acting in films and television, becoming known simply as "Vanessa Williams".[4] In the area of acting, she ran into name conflict with actress and former Miss America, Vanessa Williams. Screen Actors Guild rules prohibited duplicate stage naming. Vanessa A. had registered the name "Vanessa Williams" first,[5] so as a compromise, the former Miss America was occasionally credited as "Vanessa L. Williams" in acting credits. The Screen Actors Guild eventually took the issue to arbitration and decided that both actresses could use the professional name "Vanessa Williams".[6]


Williams began her acting career in 1989, appearing in episodes of The Cosby Show and Law & Order. In 1992, she was cast as Rhonda Blair, first and only black regular character, in the Fox prime time soap opera, Melrose Place. She was written off after only one season for lack of direction. "I think they didn't make the effort to equip themselves [to write for a black character], either by hiring a black writer or asking me things," – said Williams later.[7] She later had guest starring roles on NYPD Blue and Living Single, before was cast as series regular in the ABC legal drama, Murder One (1995–1996) created by Steven Bochco. She received her first nomination an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her performance on show. In 1996, Williams had a recurring role as Dr. Grace Carr in the CBS medical drama series, Chicago Hope, for which she received NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series nomination.[3]

Williams with Boris Kodjoe in 2011

In 2000, Williams was cast as Maxine Chadway in the Showtime drama series Soul Food, a continuation of his successful 1997 film of the same name.[3] Two other lead played by Nicole Ari Parker and Malinda Williams. In the 1997 film Vanessa L. Williams played the leading role of Teri Joseph, and Vivica A. Fox played Maxine. For her performance, Williams won NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series in 2003, and received three additional nominations. The series aired to 2004 and went to be the longest running drama with a predominantly black cast in the history of American prime-time television.[8]

After Soul Food, Williams had guest starring roles on Cold Case, Knight Rider and Lincoln Heights. In 2015, she was cast in a recurring role of Iris West's mother in The CW drama series, The Flash.[9][10] In October 2016, it was announced she was cast in the role of Valerie Grant on the NBC soap opera, Days of Our Lives.[11]


In film, Williams is best known for playing Keisha in the 1991 crime thriller New Jack City opposite Wesley Snipes and Ice T. She is also known for playing Anne-Marie McCoy in the 1992 horror Candyman opposite Tony Todd and Virginia Madsen. The following years she had small parts in Drop Squad (1994), Mother (1996), Punks (2000), Like Mike (2002), and Imagine That (2009) alongside Soul Food co-star Nicole Ari Parker. Williams has also starred in a number of made for television movies, including Emmy Award-nominated performance in Our America (2002).[3] She also had roles in several smaller productions in recent years.


Year Title Role Notes
1989 Dream Street Episode: "Pilot"
1990 Law & Order Vera Episode: "Happily Ever After"
1991 New Jack City Keisha
1989, 1991 The Cosby Show Cheryl / Jade 4 episodes
1991 Fatal Bond Waitress
1992 Candyman Anne-Marie McCoy Nominated – Fangoria Chainsaw Award for Best Supporting Actress
1992–93 Melrose Place Rhonda Blair Series regular, 32 episodes
1994 Drop Squad Mali
1995 NYPD Blue Kira Episode: "Don We Now Our Gay Apparel"
1995 Living Single Hellura Episode: "Another Saturday Night"
1996 Buddies Janice Rollins Episode: "Marry Me... Sort Of"
1995–96 Murder One Lila Series regular, 23 episodes
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (1996)
1996 Mother Donna
1996 Malcolm & Eddie Stephanie Episode: "Big Brother Is Watching"
1996 Chicago Hope Dr. Grace Carr 6 episodes
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series (1997)
1997 Between Brothers Rebecca Episode: "The Interview"
1997 A Woman of Color Television film
1998 The Pretender Denise Clements Episode: "Collateral Damage"
1998 The Steve Harvey Show Nina Episode: "Rent"
1999 Incognito Wilhelmina Hunter Television film
2000 Punks Jennifer
2000 Playing with Fire Riana Roberts Television film
2002 Our America Sandra Williams Television film
Nominated –Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special
Nominated – Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress: Television Movie/Cable
2002 Like Mike Pharmacist
2002 Baby of the Family Gloria
2003 Black Listed J.W. Direct-to-video
2000–04 Soul Food Maxine Chadway Series regular, 74 episodes
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series (2003)
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series (2001, 2004–05)
2007 Cold Case Crystal Stacy Episode: "Shuffle, Ball Change"
2007 Ice Spiders Dr. April Sommers Television film
2008 Flirting with Forty Kristine Television film
Nominated – NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
2009 Contradictions of the Heart Lea Direct-to-video
2009 Knight Rider Ambassador Olara Kumali Episodes: "Don't Stop the Knight" and "Day Turns Into Knight"
2009 Everybody Hates Chris Tallulah Lafitte Episode: "Everybody Hates Bomb Threats"
2009 Imagine That Lori Strother
2008–09 Lincoln Heights Naomi Bradshaw Episodes: "Ode to Joy" and "Bully for You"
2011 A Mother's Love Rochelle Richardson
2012 Sugar Mommas Lynn Television film
2012 Raising Izzie Tonya Freeman Television film
Nominated – Black Reel Award for Best Actress: T.V. Movie/Cable
2014 Men, Money & Gold Diggers Sandra WInslow Direct-to-video
2014 Crossed the Line Juice Television to DVD
2015–17 The Flash Francine West 4 episodes
2016– Days of Our Lives Valerie Grant Series regular
2017–18 Famous in Love Ida Turner Recurring role
2019 Thriller Mrs. Walker


  1. ^ McCann, Bob (2010). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. McFarland. pp. 362–. ISBN 978-0-7864-3790-0. Retrieved 6 July 2011.
  2. ^ "Vanessa A. Williams and African Ancestry on ABC News". Youtube/ABC News. Retrieved 2013-12-12.
  3. ^ a b c d "Vanessa Williams". Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  4. ^ "No, She's Not That Vanessa Williams 'Melrose' Star's Making A Name For Herself". philly-archives. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  5. ^ "There are two Vanessa Williams". Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  6. ^ "My Way – Celebrity Gossip". Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  7. ^ "Vanessa Williams devastated when written off The Place". Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  8. ^ "No black dramas left on television". Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  9. ^ Laura Prudom. "'The Flash' Casts 'Candyman' Star as Iris West's Mother". Variety. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  10. ^ Jack Klompus (30 September 2015). "The Flash casts Iris West's missing mum". Digital Spy. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  11. ^ SOD (October 5, 2016). "Vanessa Williams Joins DAYS". Soap Opera Digest. United States: American Media, Inc. Archived from the original on October 6, 2016. Retrieved October 5, 2016.

External linksEdit