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While beauty may only be skin deep and it may be subject to fade at any time, some beauties use their looks to gain exposure (and scholarship money), and parlay their temporary limelight into more sustainable business opportunities.  These seven black beauty queens broke records, triumphed over stereotypes and upset the status quo, while proving that beauty and brains are not mutually exclusive.

Vanessa Williams

Crowned in 1983 at the age of 20, Vanessa Williams was the first black Miss America, and although she was later stripped of the title due to nude photos taken two years earlier, she is still recognized for her achievement. More than just a beautiful face, Williams attended Syracuse University on a music scholarship, where she was Miss Syracuse and Miss New York. In the Miss America pageant, she won the talent competition and the swimsuit competition, before winning the ultimate prize. In 1989, Williams released her debut album, which contained several number one hits. She has been nominated for 11 Grammy awards, and has starred in several hit movies, including Eraser and Shaft.  Williams has also enjoyed a successful TV career, staring in such popular shows as Ugly Betty – for which she garnered three Emmy nominations – and Desperate Housewives, proving that she definitely has “the right stuff.”

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