Sorry is the hardest word - and sometimes it takes a long time to spit it out. Thirty-two years, in fact, for Miss America organizers, who made a live public apology to Vanessa Williams during the latest pageant.
Back in 1983, Williams became the first African-American to don the pageant crown, and the first forced to resign 10 months later, after nude photos of her were leaked by Penthouse Magazine.
Williams was thoroughly and publicly shamed. She went from being a 20-year-old heroine (“… older black women thought they’d never see it in their lifetime. And some people would cry”) to the nation's pariah.
Her hometown in New York took down the sign in her honour. Unlike these days where some celebrities can weave a scandal into PR gold, in Williams' case it marked the beginning of the end. She's right. It's hard to imagine a similar fate befalling the likes of Jennifer Lawrence or Miley Cyrus.
"... for me, [the leaked photos] took every ounce of credibility that I had ... and wiped it out," said Williams, who took a four-year hiatus from the spotlight.
She returned, to launch a spectacular music career that would see her shelves lined with Grammys, Tonys and Emmys.
When the Miss America Organization welcomed her to be a judge at the 95th pageant, Williams, now 52, didn't hesitate.
"It's a new day there," Williams said. "The dust always settles. And once the dust settles, it hasn't changed who you are. You're still the same."
To her immense credit, she returned to the Miss America stage, full of grace, to accept this overdue apology from Miss America CEO, Sam Haskell:
"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, Ms. Helen Williams. I want to apologize for anything that was said or done that made you feel any less the Miss America you are and the Miss America you always will be."
A happy ending for Williams, who helped crown Miss Georgia, 21 year-old Betty Cantrell.
Image Source: Angela George