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Syracuse, New York
An Atlantic City contestant representing New York, Vanessa won both the swimsuit and talent competition, going on to become the first African American to win Miss America and making an unforgettable mark in pageant history. Despite her resignation, she performed her duties as Miss America in an exemplary fashion. Today, she is one of the most respected and multi-faceted performers in the entertainment industry having conquered the musical charts, Broadway, television and motion pictures.
Vanessa has sold over 15 million albums worldwide. She is one of just a handful of artists to score #1 and Top 10 hits on both Billboard's Album and Singles charts in the areas of Pop, Dance, R&B, Adult Contemporary, Holiday, Latin, Gospel and Jazz - the latter is where her latest Concord Records release, "The Real Thing," debuted at #1 in June of 2009.
Her critically acclaimed work in film, television, recordings and the Broadway stage has been recognized by every major industry award affiliation including 4 Emmy nominations, 17 Grammy nominations (of which 11 were for her individually), a Tony nomination, 3 SAG award nominations, 6 NAACP Image Awards, and ultimatley a Golden Globe, Grammy and an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Colors of the Wind," from the Disney film Pocahontas. In December 2010, the International Press Academy in Beverly Hills honored Vanessa with their prestigious Mary Pickford Award for her career achievements and contributions to the entertainment industry over the past 27 years. Vanessa also achieved a career pinnacle with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Vanessa currently co-stars in ABC's "Desperate Housewives" as "Renee Perry" - a role that earned her an NAACP Image Award as "Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series" in 2011.
She is the mother of four (Melanie, Jillian, Devin & Sasha) and divides her time between homes in Los Angeles and New York. Her charitable endeavors are many and varied, embracing and supporting such organizations as Special Olympics and several others.