You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other)

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The highly anticipated first book by a widely respected entertainer whose career highlights include The Right Stuff, Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, and former Miss America

When Vanessa Williams was growing up, she had a plan: She’d go to college and major in musical theater; afterward she’d get her MFA from the Yale School of Drama, and then she would embark on a successful career on Broadway. And to make sure she stayed on that path, her mother, Helen Williams, gave her a list of things that she should never— ever—do. Near the top of that list was “never ever pose nude for anyone.” So when Vanessa became the first African-American woman to win the title of Miss America in September 1983 (an accomplishment that she never planned for or desired), only to be forced to resign ten months later due to a nude photo scandal, the lives of both Vanessa and Helen took an unexpected turn. But Vanessa survived this setback, and many others to come, to enjoy a thirty-plus-year career as an award-winning singer and actress. Vanessa has been asked to write her memoir many times, but only now—with the help of her mother—is she ready to tell her story.

Vanessa grew up in Millwood, New York, part of one of the town’s only black families. As a teenager, Vanessa defied Helen, flirting with boys, drinking, and smoking pot. But despite their early conflicts, Helen has always ardently protected her daughter, staying in contact with the FBI about the multiple death threats Vanessa received after being crowned and being there for her during the dissolution of her two marriages.

Now the mother of four children, Vanessa describes how she’s made it through the ups and downs of her life as well as her career. Jointly written by Vanessa and Helen and filled with dozens of personal family photos and mementos, You Have No Idea is an empowering celebration of the love between a mother and daughter and the life of a woman who beat the odds to achieve her destiny.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; First Edition edition (April 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592407072
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592407071
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds

Customer Reviews

The Vanessa Williams We Did Not Know

17 people found this helpful.
 on April 17, 2012
By grace williams
I have just ordered the book on Kindle which I have inserted in my PC. This book is fantastic. Vanessa Williams exemplifies the word “survivor”. She adamantly refused to permit “setbacks” and “scandals” deter her from being the supersuccessful triple threat that she is and will continue to be in years to come.

What a great read

 on October 7, 2017
By Amazon Customer
This is one of the most entertaining bios about a current celebrity. Thinking back to the whole “event” this would be a snooze scandal compared to the exploits of stars today. Yet Vanessa and her mom and their writer masterly show how gut wrenching it was for them. Their dignity, grace & strength in their handling of this situation along with many others is inspirational. The format is clever and entertaining. Both mom and daughter tell their versions of a story and offer their own thoughts and reflection. A lot of humor, reality, honesty and love for sure. Most mothers and daughters will be able to relate. Easy read with lots of photos.

Through it All Vanessa Shines!

 on April 7, 2016
By Amazon Customer
When people think of Vanessa Williams the first thing that comes to mind are the nude photos in Playboy Magazine that occurred around the same time that she became Miss America but all of that is in the past. What people don’t realize is that there is much more to Vanessa Williams. You Have No Idea by Vanessa Williams and Helen Williams gives the inside story into the life of Vanessa, from the woman to the versatile entertainer that she is today. Hear story accounts from her no-nonsense mother, Helen about the challenges of being parents to Vanessa, who grew up rebellious and a risk-taker; about the death threats that Vanessa and her family received when she became the first black Miss America; and how the nude photos of Vanessa were leaked to the steps that Vanessa took to become a well-respected and talented music and entertainment artist.

Perfect! Enlightening! Endearing!

One person found this helpful.
 on May 25, 2012
By Dee
I won’t lie, I’m not even finished with the book. However, that’s only because I realized quickly that this was one of those books that you can lose yourself in and finish too quickly, so in an effort to stall the ending, I’ve only been reading in like 15-30 minute intervals over the course of this week. If I wanted to, I could’ve finished it in an afternoon, but then it’d be over. : ( Lol

Who Knew! Must read

One person found this helpful.
 on April 25, 2012
By Kels
I devoured this book in a day! Vanessa Williams has always been one of those artists who has always been around, as I am in my early twenties and remember Colors of the Wind as background music to my childhood. I remember her in various movies that I’d watch growing up and on tv, of course shes a beautiful face but I had no idea about her story! My interest was peaked when my father mentioned that she was writing a book. I ordered it two days later and have not been that anxious to recieve a package in a long time. I laughed out loud many times prompting my co-workers to ask what are you reading and I recommended this book to several people. It is a must read for anyone who has ever faced adversity, judgement, and divorce. I especially enjoyed the first half of the book when she talked about her amazing father, and her childhood and teenage years. Who knew that she was a such a rebel? She carries herself with such grace now…

You Know What, I Really Didn’t Have Any Idea!

 on December 12, 2012
By Kiwes
I truly did not have any idea what kind of life Vanessa Williams ‘really’ led. It amazes me how the media portrays celebrities in one light, but to get the ‘real’ facts from the celebrity themself is a totally different experience. She tells everything from the Miss America fiasco to her marriage with Rick Fox. I’ve always been proud of Vanessa for standing up for what she believes in and I’m glad that she and her mom wrote this book. The reader will feel her pain, her struggles and hopes and aspirations for the future. She is aging beautifully and living the life she’s always been so passionate about.

Superb Storytelling!

 on June 5, 2012
By RYCJ
Empowering me with a deep sense of self-respect and dignity… and it wasn’t the day she was crowned, but the day she relinquished the crown, made me too sure Vanessa’s career was going to take off, however ironically, not by the way in which it ultimately did. On that part,`I had no idea!’

A Special Bond

 on May 12, 2012
By Eric J. Bailey
I just completed reading “You Have No Idea” by Vanessa Williams and Helen Williams and I felt like I went through a very special family journey of life, love, and adventure. As you begin to read this book, it captures your curiosity and desire to want to know more about their lives. The uniqueness of this book is that it shares the insight of Vanessa and Helen Williams thoughts at various stages of their lives. From Vanessa’s early years in high school, college years, Miss America years, early singing career, Broadway years, movie career years, television career and of course her marriages, the two shared their inner most thoughts that was not only surprising but also refreshingly revealing. This book was more about their “special bond” as mother and daughter because it became obvious later in the chapters that Helen Williams deeply admired her daughter Vanessa and Vanessa deeply admired and respected her mother Helen. The two may appear to be exact opposites but they are one of the same. Overall, this book shows how these two special women embrace life’s rewards and adapt to life’s valleys. With the love and respect of their close, traditional family, Vanessa and Helen Williams tell an uplifting, cultural life story about Vanessa Williams that really showcases their “special bond” as mother and daughter.

I had no idea!

 on April 27, 2012
By Ms. Amazon
I have been a fan of Vanessa Williams ever since I was a little girl. I remember singing along to “Dreaming” every time it came on BET! My mother always mentions her as being the first Black Miss America but shockingly she never mentioned anything about scandal. I saw the photos online and wondered myself what was up with that but I never lost one ounce of love for Vanessa. I have always admired her for her talent and for being a beautiful person. Not only that I always wondered how she managed to do it all… be a great mother, a wife, an actress, a singer, and manage to do it all while looking drop dead gorgeous. I had no idea of all the struggles and misfortunes she went through in life but when I read the book I fell in love with her even more because I can definitely relate to nearly every experience she has gone through in some way or another. She has definitely given me the motivation to continue to strive to reach my personal goals no matter how far they may seem out of reach, no matter how many obstacles I have to overcome, no matter how many people misjudge me or try to discourage me, no matter how many detours I may have to take, no matter how many mistakes I make along the way to continue believing in myself because hard work and determination pays off in the end.

Where it all started

 on April 22, 2012
By Rande Richardson
I was 13 years old when then Miss Syracuse was crowned Miss New York State in my hometown, Watertown, NY. I still have her autograph from 1983! She returned twice to Watertown after becoming Miss America. I remember her visiting our junior high school and sitting right behind her in the second row of our auditorium. Since then, I have always thought of the beginnings of her amazing, multi-faceted career and how it all started. Of course, I had to get a copy of the book as soon as it was released. It has been great to read the “story behind the story,” and how nothing could keep such talent down! I was pleased to see Watertown got a couple of mentions in the book (ironically it was during a return trip here that she first became aware that her Miss America title might be in jeopardy). This is a great compliation of the road to the top for an extremely talented woman and written in a way that keeps you engaged from beginning to end. The world is better for having her rise from the ashes. To have wasted talent like this would have been a crime! Well done. Watertown will never forget you!

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