NPR logo Miss America Pageant Apologizes To 1983 Winner Vanessa Williams

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Miss America Pageant Apologizes To 1983 Winner Vanessa Williams

Miss America pageant chief executive Sam Haskell apologizes to Vanessa Williams, who was forced to resign her Miss America title. Mel Evans/AP hide caption

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Mel Evans/AP

Miss America pageant chief executive Sam Haskell apologizes to Vanessa Williams, who was forced to resign her Miss America title.

Mel Evans/AP

A new Miss America was crowned Sunday night in Atlantic City, N.J., but it was a moment with a Miss America from 32 years ago that stole the spotlight.

Vanessa Williams became the first black Miss America winner in 1983, but she was forced to resign 10 months later after Penthouse magazine published nude photos of her. Williams, who was 21 at the time, said she never consented to the publication of the photos.

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On Sunday night, the Miss America pageant's chief executive, Sam Haskell, offered an on-stage apology to Williams after she performed a song on stage. He said:

"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."

The apology was met with surprise by an emotional Williams, and the crowd broke into applause and cheers.

After her resignation as Miss America, Williams starred in movies and on TV shows, such as ABC's show Ugly Betty, and enjoyed a successful career in the music industry. She returned to the Miss America pageant this year as a celebrity judge and helped crown the latest winner, Betty Cantrell from Georgia.

Another highlight from the pageant came from Cantrell, when she had this to say about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Deflategate.

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