31 years later, Vanessa Williams got the very public apology she deserved.

At the Miss America pageant on Sept. 13, 2015, the organization's CEO, Sam Haskell, opened the show with a heartfelt apology to former Miss America, Vanessa Williams.

This was the first time Williams had returned to the competition in decades.



Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for dcp.

In 1983, Vanessa Williams made history for becoming the first black Miss America. Then, 10 months after being crowned, she made history again — for resigning.

Williams has had such an amazing A-list career as an actor and singer — racking up plenty of Grammy, Emmy, and Tony award nominations without the help of a crown on her head — it's easy to forget why the Miss America organization forced Williams to resign all those years ago.


Back in 1984, nude photos of Williams (taken before she became Miss America) leaked without her permission.

Penthouse magazine published the pics, without her permission, in its September issue that year. And the Miss America organization reportedly pressured Williams into relinquishing her crown just seven weeks before the end of her reign.

It's funny how an organization that emphasizes women's looks and still factors in a swimsuit competition ended up shaming one of its competitors for expressing her sexuality offstage...


Of course, the resignation was a whole bunch of bull. Sometimes, especially when it comes to women's sexuality, society has a tendency to blame those who've been wronged instead of blaming those who actually did the wronging.

It's called victim-blaming, and it's all too common. Williams should not have been pressured to resign because a magazine made the decision to publish unauthorized, private photos of her. But the Miss America organization blamed her instead of supporting her and criticizing Penthouse for its poor editorial choice.

But in 2015, the Miss America organization finally took a significant step to right its past wrongs.

With Williams at Haskell's side on stage, he apologized on behalf of the Miss America organization for how it treated her all those years ago:

“You have lived your life in grace and dignity and never was it more evident than during the events of 1984 when you resigned. 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. 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."

After 31 years, the Miss America organization finally acknowledged that it treated its 1983 winner like garbage.

We see this kind of victim-blaming against women time and time again. But most victims never get the apology they deserve.

Instead of blaming rapists, state agencies not-so-subtly blame women for drinking too much. Instead of teaching teenage boys to respect their female classmates, schools kick girls out of dances for wearing dresses that may cause "impure thoughts." And instead of blaming the hackers who shared private photographs of celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lawrence, male celebrities (and others) felt the need to advise Kim K. and JLaw they shouldn't have taken the pictures in the first place.


Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images.

If your friend's house got robbed and the thief stole an expensive TV, would you say, "Well, you knew thieves exist. You probably shouldn't have bought an expensive TV"?

No, you'd blame the idiot who stole their television.

So why blame Williams for a magazine's unethical decision?

We're making progress, though. Miss America's apology wasn't just important for Williams — it was important for everyone watching.

The apology was witnessed by about 7 million people last night. Hopefully the message was loud and clear: We shouldn't fault victims for the actions of those who wrong them.

Watch footage from Haskell's apology below:

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.