Vanessa Williams is all smiles. We just finished watching a NOLCHA Fashion Show which was showcasing two international designers, including KavenLiu DIMOR, a Chinese designer showing at NYFW for the first time. Williams is there to promote #MyShiningMoment, an initiative by Clear Eyes which helps individuals reach or celebrate a monumental moment in their lives. The former beauty queen is a successful singer, actress, and fashion designer, so if anyone is an expert at “shining moments,” it’s her.
She only has a few moments to talk as she’s heading back to California to continue to film a project she’s working on. She was just in NYC a few weeks back as her daughter, Jillian, better known as “Lion Babe” performed at AfroPunk. The whole family was in attendance backstage at her show. I comment on the closeness of her family, something that Williams’ works diligently towards, across all the generations. “We literally live next door to each other. My mom lives next door to me. I see her practically every day when I’m home. I pick up the mail, go drop it off, we have our mother-daughter time. If I’m not home, my daughter will pick up the mail and go and see her. It’s like an old fashion relationship where relatives live close together.” It’s not just closeness, but it’s also the decision to be close. She tells Madame Noire, “proximity is one thing but also our attitude.” It’s not always roses, she admits to sacrificing for the prioritization of her children, “The kids always came first.” Williams’ adds, “Maybe to the detriment of my career and marriages…but the kids were always first.”
Vanessa Williams may be 55 but she’s showing no signs of slowing down. The actress talks getting older, “Don’t be afraid,” she says reassuringly. We undoubtedly live in a society driven by the patriarchal mindset, where most of a woman’s life is defined by trying not to age. Whereas men are seen to get wiser and more desirable as they get older. I wonder in a culture like Hollywood how Vanessa Williams, a former Miss America, is adjusting to being 50+ in our youth-obsessed world. She reasons that aging is more about not losing the ability to take risks. As many women age, they become more cautious. Williams reasons, “With every challenge in life there is a fear because you haven’t done it before. Don’t be afraid to take the leap, whatever it is. And no matter what age you are, there’s always gonna be something you haven’t done.” Vanessa Williams’ has managed to evolve and sustain her career for decades and it could be credited naturally, to her talent, but also to her ability to take chances. She explains, “Whether you are 5 or 50, you have to be open to what’s being offered and brave enough to accept it.”
We get candid about how it feels to age. She explains, “It’s a daily thing. Sometimes lighting is like, ‘Whoo! This is not my friend.’ Then sometimes with good lighting, your like, ‘I’m not doing so bad today.'” We laugh. Williams sits back, thinks, then adds, “And then I look at myself and I look at my life and I’m 55 years old and I have grown kids who are wonderful and productive and talented and salt to the earth human beings that I know I have guided and streered and developed. And I said, ‘Well, this is who I am and this is what I need to be.’ So I embrace what I have, sometimes it’s a struggle, but I embrace it and I look for science to help me maintain. I want to look like myself, not anybody else.”
Hollywood is riddled with celebrities who are going under the knife to look younger or alter their appearances. Many in their 20’s and even more in their 30’s and older. Vanessa Williams is 55 but does not show signs of her age. Nor does she look like one of those women in Hollywood who are unforgiving of themselves and age. She enthusiastically mentions, “We are so lucky to live in an age of technology. 20 years before, even 15 years before, women that were my age that were trying to stay in the anti-aging category only had a few options: surgery, face lift….cutting.”
Skincare, as you get older, is about maintenance and Williams is open to all the science has to offer. “Nowadays there are so many lasers. If I see my dermatologist, I’m like, ‘What machines do you have and what do they do?!'” She stresses the importance of asking questions, like, “What are the downsides? Are they good for my skin?” She mentions she’s “always asking.” Williams shared a story that her MUA who works with another actress told her she was getting vampire facials and gave Williams’ the contact. She stresses the importance of discovering new information, “It’s all about asking questions and knowing science continues to evolve on a daily basis.” She seems extremely comforted by the swiftness in science with regards to anti-aging adding, “That’s a great thing.”
I ask her what procedures she does and she begin to rattle off, “Serums, peptides, I’ve done ultherapy, which is tightening under the skin. I’ve done micro….” I interrupt her, exclaiming, “You’re so open about all this!” Williams responds, “It’s science!” She continues to share about her beauty hacks that don’t require going underneath the knife. “One device I have is called Ziip Beauty. You plug it in, put your serum on. It has a beeper. You do one side of your face, the other side of your face. You can do it as often as you like. The energy to your face helps tighten so you don’t have to….you know, it helps tighten.” She’s talking about getting surgery. I don’t ask her if she has, but Williams’ face has a characteristic you don’t see often in Hollywood: naturalness. She’s a huge proponent of non-invasive procedures.
While we never asked Williams’ if she has any plastic surgery procedures, it’s nice to see someone in Hollywood who is aging gracefully without the need for surgical cosmetic enhancements. She looks great…and not just for her age! What do you think about her use of science vs sculpting with a knife?
Danielle James is Head of Fashion and Beauty Partnerships for HelloBeautiful and MadameNoire. She’s the Founder of Model Citizen, a peer-to-peer shopping platform that allows women to shop each others’ closets. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter: @TheIslanDiva.