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Vanessa 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. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.



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