She was elected First Lady by the Miss America Coronation.
Vanessa Williams plays the first lady in Broadway’s POTUS – a role she has spent her life collecting material for.
“I’ve met five first ladies in my life, which was pretty extraordinary, so I have a great history to draw on,” the 59-year-old told The Post via Zoom on Friday. “Because they are all amazing, graceful, smart, passionate and committed women.”
Her first encounter with the other half of the president came after she was crowned Miss America in 1983 — when she attended the state dinner at the White House and met President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy.
In the play, which was nominated for three Tony Awards, audiences never see the President but learn a salacious fact about him — that he got a young woman, played by Julianne Hough, pregnant.
The actress and “Save the Best for Last” singer, who invited her Chappaqua neighbor Hillary Clinton to watch the show, shrugged at any hint of irony.
“But you know what … there were a lot of scandals, John F. Kennedy, I mean, there were scandals across the board,” she said.
One of the recent scandals to rock the Great White Way is the leak of cellphone video and images of a naked Jessie Williams on Take Me Out. The mother-of-four and first-time grandmother says it comes naturally and is “part of the risk of doing a show where you’re full front and full back.”
The former pageant queen understands the risks firsthand, as nude photos of herself surfaced after winning Miss America, ultimately prompting her to resign.
In fact, she received word that her “penthouse” photos were published without her permission by a New York Post reporter during an interview in 1984 — which also discussed a woman in the White House.
“Geraldine Ferraro was running for the female VP ticket… It was July 13, Friday the 13th when I had the interview… At the very end he said, ‘Oh, by the way, we heard it from a reliable source. And I said, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’”
Williams – who became Miss America while she was still a student at Syracuse University – said she didn’t experience the same pressures as other beauty competitors.
This was because the Millwood-raised Bronx earned the title after competing in just a handful of competitions, including Miss New York, a title she received just months ahead of Miss America.
She met Miss Universe winner Chelsie Kryst, who committed suicide by jumping from her Midtown building in January as the Extra correspondent interviewed her virtually in 2020.
“I did an interview with her during the pandemic,” she said. “But I had no idea. She didn’t look like she had any mental health issues to contend with at all. So I have no idea what was going on in her life, but taking her own life in this way is a very strong statement of wanting to be seen and heard.”
The actress does her own makeup for her character Margaret, who Williams calls a “badass.” And when it comes to accessories, she took inspiration from real-life White House women.
“The triple pearl necklace is definitely very Barbara Bush,” she said. “The headband I wear in Act II, Hillary went through her headband phase. The jumpsuit, I think Michelle Obama is probably the only first lady who has ever worn a jumpsuit.”
Speaking of signature accessories, Williams still keeps her Miss America crown in a box at home. “I resigned, nobody came to my house to dethrone me,” she said, laughing.