Vanessa L Williams

  1. Tisha Campbell, School Daze, 1987.    The first black Miss America (1984) was quickly dethroned when Penthouse published some oldish, Lesbianish nudes. Auteur Spike Lee still chose her but they fell out. “She had some issues,” said Spike. She was offended that “all the light-skinned characters were just concerned about themselves and all the dark-skinned students had integrity.” She told Spike: “I don’t know what you’ve been burned by, but I know a lot of sisters who have the same tone as me, and we’re intelligent.  We aren’t narcissists.”  Spike was more taken by Tisha’s singing in Little Shop of Horrors, 1985.
  2. Shari Headley, Coming To America, 1988.   Too busy marrying her first husband, her publicist Ramon Hervey, and  having three children.
  3. Robin Givens, Boomerang, 1992.    “I was a scandalous beauty queen who’d made hit records but wasn’t considered a feature film actress. So I had to prove  myself!” So she avoided Eddie Murphy ego-trips to concentrate on music – resulting three hit albums and  starring in Broadway’s Kiss of the Spider Woman.
  4. Angela Bassett, What’s Love Got To Do With It, 1992. Finalists for Tina Turner to choose from for her biopic were Bassett, Halle Berry, Robin Givens, Pam Grier,  Whitney Houston (a crazy idea, but pregnant), Janet Jackson (crazier),  Jennifer Lewis (who finished up playing Tina’s Mama) and Vanessa L Williams.    Tina  voted for Angela after seeing  her sing Proud Mary .  Even then, Angela submitted herself to intense work with dancing, dialect and physical training coaches. Tina sang the songs.  Of course. And Halle enacted Dorothy Dandridge’s life in 1998.
  5. Cameron Diaz, The Mask, 1994.    Director Chuck Russell called her back the following year for Eraser. “She was ready to rock” and the titular Arnold Schwarzenegger quickly approved.  He  never forgot her:  inviting  to sing the US  Anthem at his inauguration as Governor of California in November 2003.
  6. Halle Berry, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, TV, 1999.    “Our Marilyn Monroe” is how Lena Horne called her… Vanessawas among the many black actresses and singers (Jasmine Guy, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Jayne Kennedy) who cited Dorothy’s influence on them – and wanted to film her life. Berry beat them, all to the rights of the bio by Dandridge manager Earl Mills.
  7. Aaliyah, Queen of the Damned,  2001.   What were they thinking?  Cher was hardly going to agree to be a (26 minute) supporting act to the vampire Lestat…!   Particularly in such a mish-mash of two Anne Rice novels. rushed into action before Warner Bros’ rights ran out.  She would have been  great, of course. However, director Michael Rymer decided Queen Akasha  should  be black. He saw all the inevitables: Halle Berry, Rosario Dawson, Vivica A Fox, Jada Pinkett Smith, Vanessa Williams, plus newcomers JenNa Dewan and Samanatha Mumba…  But  Aaliyah was at her short-lived zenith.  Having survived the odious R Kelly (she wed h, at 15; the certify taipan aid 18), she tragically died  in a  Bahamas plane crash soon after shooting wrapped.  She was just  22.
  8. Halle Berry, Monster’s Ball, 2001.    An early choice for Leticia Musgrove refused because of full frontal nudity and a graphic sex scene – “make me feel good.” And the Best Actress Oscar went no only to a black womanfor the first time… but the very actresss who had played Dorothy Dandridge, the first black nominated for a Best Actress Oscar in 1955, Halle dedicated the moment to Dorothy, Lena Horne and Diahann Carroll.  


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  8