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so as a compromise, Williams was occasionally credited as "Vanessa L. To compound the confusion, both actresses starred in versions of the drama Soul Food (Williams in the film version, and Vanessa A. The Screen Actors Guild eventually took the issue to arbitration and decided that both actresses could use the professional name "Vanessa Williams".Williams is the first African American recipient of the Miss America title when she was crowned Miss America 1984 in September 1983.
Amid growing media controversy and scrutiny, Williams resigned as Miss America in July 1984 (under pressure from the Miss America Organization), and was replaced by first runner-up Miss New Jersey Suzette Charles.
In 2007, she starred in the independent film My Brother, for which she won Best Actress honors at the Harlem International Film Festival, the African-American Women in Cinema Film Festival, and at the Santa Barbara African Heritage Film Festival.