Kathleen Gilbert


Actress Vanessa Williams on the lesbian rape and abortion that changed her youth

Kathleen Gilbert

As a singer, an actress, and a fallen beauty queen, Vanessa Williams is an enigmatic figure. In 1984, her glory as the first black winner of the Miss America contest was quickly snuffed out by a nude photo scandal that forced her to give up her crown.

Today, with years of success in the entertainment industry tucked under her belt, Williams has long ago proven that no hard knock can keep her down. Her recently-released book proves that thesis even more: revealing that, all along that journey, she was silently carrying two heavy burdens.

Williams revealed for the first time in “You Have No Idea,” and in two interviews attending its release, that she was molested by an 18-year-old woman before she entered fifth grade, and that she had an abortion before she left high school. Not even her mother, who co-wrote the book with Williams, had heard of these events until now.

The “Desperate Housewives” actress told Nightline ABC that the fallout from the first trauma was clear.

“I think I was highly sexualized because I was in fifth grade and I had this experience,” she said of the molestation. “Because it feels good, you’re like, OK, well this is supposed to be normal. That’s not normal for a 10-year-old to be seduced.”

Her feelings about the abortion, which she said was another result of the rape which led to a subsequent desire to be “wild,” are not as clear.

“Being pregnant is the most frightening thing that happens in your life,” she told Nightline. “I knew in high school that’s something that I was not prepared to do, or fight, or struggle with.”

Some took the remark as a sign that Williams, who says she attends Catholic Mass every Sunday, embraces abortion as an important way out for teens as scared as she was.

But in an interview with Fox411, her answer to a question on the same topic hints that she wonders about what might have been, if her child were still alive - and that those who think abortions are necessary for women to be successful are quite mistaken.

“Who knows how life would have been different? I think the bottom line is I definitely would have been where I am now even if I’d gone down another path,” she said. “It doesn’t take away from the drive or the talent. You can make your life whatever you want with or without a child.”

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