Vanessa Williams takes to the stage -- The singer and actress is hard at work remaking her tarnished image with a stint on Broadway and a new album

By Christina Kelly
Updated December 16, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

Vanessa Williams would like you to forget notions of her as some kind of pop seductress and think of her instead as an average working mom. Evidence of this — artwork by two of her three children (Melanie, 7, Jillian, 5, and Devin, 19 months) with her husband/manager, Ramon Hervey — adorns the walls of her dressing room at New York’s Broadhurst Theatre, where she’s making her Broadway debut in Kiss of the Spider Woman. Motherhood is also the theme of her current single, ”The Sweetest Days.” ”It was inspired by a conversation about how fast our kids grow up,” says Williams, 31. ”And different experiences we’ve had as parents, and how your marriage changes once you introduce kids.”

All this may sound very mundane, but Williams’ metamorphosis into a respected spokesperson for domesticity was no small feat. Ten years after the first black Miss America was forced to resign, following the publication of racy photos in Penthouse, she’s finally doing exactly what she wants. Perhaps that’s because she didn’t capitalize on the scandal á la Jessica Hahn, Amy Fisher, and other bad girls of the A Current Affair era, choosing instead to be dignified and in control — a word that peppers her conversation. The desire to be in charge is the whole reason she became a recording artist, which had never been a goal — musical theater was her passion. ”You can control your imaging, what you’ll sing, and you can be your own boss,” explains Williams, who coproduced six songs on The Sweetest Days. ”I think it’s a wiser, more mature, adult-type record.”

Next, Williams would like to do an album of Broadway standards — something she feels she can finally pull off: ”The big step is to get a lot of people to be your base so you can go off and do creative stuff like a standards album and they’ll still buy it.”