“I have been a close friend to this beautiful and talented lady for 32 years,” CEO Sam Haskell told Williams. “You have lived your life in grace and dignity, and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned.
Vanessa Williams stepped down in 1984 as the first black Miss America after nude photos of her appeared in Penthouse magazine. She went on to have a successful singing and acting career and has written a memoir. In September, Sam Haskell, executive chairman and CEO for Miss America, apologized to Williams on behalf of the organization.
An image posted on social media showing Miss Lebanon Saly Greige, right, and Miss Israel Doron Matalon together ignited an online uproar. The picture appeared on Matalon's Instagram feed on January 11. Greige responded by posting a statement on Facebook that said she was "very cautious to avoid being in any photo or communication with Miss Israel."
Marjorie Wallace lost her Miss World 1973 title because the organization said that dating celebrities like Tom Jones during her reign threatened its reputation. She had entered the pageant as Miss America. Pictured, Wallace celebrates with Miss Jamaica Patricia Yuen, left, and Miss Philippines Margarita Moran after she is crowned Miss World.
Gabriella Brum resigned within a day of winning the Miss World crown in 1980, saying her boyfriend was unhappy that they'd be separated by her beauty queen duties. She had entered the pageant as Miss Germany. Pictured, the 18-year-old enjoys a champagne breakfast at the Mansion House with the Lord Mayor of London Sir Ronald Gardner-Thorp.
Alicia Machado, Miss Universe 1996, risked her crown after gaining some weight. She lost the weight and kept her title. Pictured, Machado kisses Donald Trump, owner of the Miss Universe pageant, during her daily workout in January 1997.
Carrie Prejean was stripped of her Miss California USA title in 2009 after a long legal battle with the contest. The contest dethroned her and said lingerie-modeling photos emerged that breached her contract. Prejean sued, claiming that her firing was religious discrimination because of her opposition to same-sex marriage, and the pageant countersued. The conflict ultimately ended after the revelation of a "sex tape."
Mexican beauty queen Cynthia de la Vega said officials took away her crown after she gained weight, preventing her from competing in the 2011 Miss World pageant. Pageant officials refuted that, saying she lacked dedication and discipline. De la Vega had placed second in the Nuestra Belleza Mexico competition, a title that placed her on the list of contestants representing their nations in the 2011 Miss World contest.
Pablo Salazar/Clasos.com/LatinContent/Getty Images
Melissa King, who was named Miss Delaware Teen USA, resigned in 2013 after a porn video she did before the pageant went viral. "I thought it would be fun. And I needed the money, so I just decided to do it," she said of the video.
Analouisa Valencia blazed trails in her quest to become Miss South Carolina in 2013. The biracial, lesbian contestant was crowned Palmetto Princess in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Valencia's father is from Mexico, and her mother is African-American. Valencia came out as a lesbian when she was in the ninth grade and took her girlfriend, Tamyra Bell, to her high school prom.
Denise Garrido, left, was crowned Miss Universe Canada in May 2013, but the committee gave the title to Riza Santos 24 hours later, saying it had made a mistake.
Courtesy Allumski Photography
“Though none of us currently in the organization were involved then, on behalf of today’s organization, I want to apologize to you and to your mother, Miss Helen Williams,” Haskell said as Williams’ eyes filled with tears. “I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less than the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be.”
The audience – as well as the contestants on stage – erupted with applause after the apology.
Williams won the crown in 1983 and had the title for 10 months, until Penthouse magazine published nude photos of Williams that were taken before her reign.
Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev, left, crowns Betty Cantrell as Miss America 2016 on Sunday, September 13.
Noah K. Murray/AP
Even though Williams resigned, many at the time said the Miss America Organization pressured or forced her to give up her title.
After Haskell’s apology, Williams went back to her judge’s seat and helped select the new Miss America.
That title now belongs to 21-year-old Betty Cantrell of Georgia. The Mercer University student performed the operatic song “Tu Tu Piccolo Iddio” during the talent portion of her competition. She will tour the country promoting her platform, “Healthy Children, Strong America.”