You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other)

By Nekisha Mohan, Black Books and

You Have No Idea
A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other)
By Vanessa Williams & Helen Williams
Gotham, Hardcover, 304pp., $28.00

No matter how badly you have ever screwed up, chances are it wasn’t as highly publicized as Vanessa Williams’ racy nude photos that eventually led to her resigning as Miss America.

In her autobiography, “You have no idea, a famous daughter and her no nonsense mother: How we survived pageants, Hollywood, love and loss and each other, ” Williams does not beat around the bush getting to the scandal.

It is how most of America was introduced to her and she knows it. Williams tells her side, how a naive young rebellious woman was enticed into taking her clothes off and shooting photos with another naked woman, all shot by a photographer who “promised” they would never go anywhere.

We know how that turned out. Her mother never found out about it until it threatened her reign as Miss America, the first black woman to hold that title. In her words Helen Williams walks us through her end of the scandal in the pragmatic way she raised her rebellious daughter Vanessa.

Helen Williams didn’t overreact because it appears teenage Vanessa had given her some interesting moments over the years. Both Williams and her mother speak adoringly of Vanessa’s father, Milton, the back bone of their family.

Milton and Helen Williams were both music teachers, so both children played instruments. They settled Millwood N.Y., an upper middle class suburb outside of New York City where they taught their kids music, minding their manners and how to make the best of the opportunities afforded to them.

From an early age, Vanessa and her mother butted heads but challenges of life always bonded them together.

In this age of sex tapes and scandals bringing great opportunities to average people, Williams’ scandal did just the opposite. It gave her a bigger obstacle to climb as she tried to pursue her love of acting and Broadway. Still she perseveres through two marriages on two coasts that produced 4 children.

We learn intimate but not tawdry details about her life with NBA star Rick Fox. She has also had a stellar career in movies, television, Broadway and a few Grammys along the way.

Her story is a triumph in never giving up when everything seems to favor quitting. I think a better title for the book may be, “Vanessa Williams: on the record. My life on my own terms.”

About the Book Review Author

Nekisha Mohan is an Anchor/Reporter at WPLG-TV in Miami. Her award winning journalism career spans two decades of reporting in Los Angeles, Washington DC, Cleveland and Jackson, Mississippi. Born in New York and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, she credits her love of reading with helping her dream up the life she lives now.

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