Friday, July 17, 2009

Interview: Vanessa Williams Helps Others Express Success

Perhaps it was during her turn as a cut-throat hotel owner in the nighttime drama South Beach where Vanessa Williams first honed her skills as a business woman to be reckoned with. Nowadays, Vanessa is sharpening her claws in her current Emmy-nominated role of Wilhelmina Slater on ABC’s hit show Ugly Betty.

However, the real woman behind those ball-breaking ladies is nothing like those characters. Aside from being a television superstar, Vanessa is also a Tony-nominated stage actress, a multiple Grammy-nominated singer, a movie star and a vocal spokesperson for BOTOX Cosmetic.

Vanessa tells me: “I started using BOTOX after I turned 40. I’m 46 now. I did it because I wanted to maintain the way I look — not particularly to look younger, but to look refreshed. I think that has been my secret weapon for the past six years. I do not want to look like anyone else; I want to be myself. I’ve had such great success with BOTOX.”

Vanessa is presently helping to promote the launch of Allergan’s “BOTOX Cosmetic: Express Success” campaign. Allergan has teamed up with Dress for Success to help promote workplace education and to distribute professional attire to women who cannot afford it to help them on their job searches.

Vanessa explains: “I signed onto this campaign, because it is a win/win situation. I am a working mother, a person who is in front of the camera all the time and who wants to look my best. This was an opportunity to team up with a fantastic product that I use and to give back to the community as well. The nonprofit Dress for Success is an opportunity for women who don’t have the means that I do to get proper training for the workforce, get some amazing clothing and be able to start on the path toward becoming a successful woman in business.”

Vanessa herself is the epitome of success in business — as a singer and an actress. Her latest album, The Real Thing, was released June 2 on Concord Records. Vanessa describes the album as “kind of jazzy, a little bit of a Latin feel, a little bit of R&B. I went to my friends who are producers and who I’ve worked with over the years — Babyface wrote two songs and produced; Keith Thomas, who produced “Save the Best for Last” and “Colors of the Wind,” produced about five tracks; and Rob Mathes, who produced my two Christmas albums, produced as well. I basically went back to people who know my musical taste.”

Vanessa was thrilled to have recently sold out two performances in Atlantic City at the Tropicana. “It’s always great to do new performances and feature new music, so that was a lot of fun. The good thing about it is I’ve always been able to do these one-off performances while I’m shooting a role. I’ve kept my live performances going, but it’s always great to introduce new music, and the audience really responded to it.”

Vanessa is now hard at work back on the Ugly Betty set, which moved back to New York at the beginning of the previous season. Like most fans, Vanessa feels the move was great for the show.

“I love it. When we originally did the pilot, it was a New York show. The shock of moving to L.A. for two years definitely was a transition. And once we finally relaxed and enjoyed where we were, that’s when they pulled the rug out and moved us back to New York. But it’s great to be back, and now all my kids are on the same coast. I think the show is completely authentic now — we are walking the streets of New York, you can see Manhattan, our casting is local, and I think a lot of people enjoy seeing New York as a character of our show, like it was in the pilot.”

If you want to help Vanessa with Allergan’s Express Success campaign, go to to find out how to donate professional clothing or money to this great cause.