Vanessa Williams and Her Mom Get Candid

Singer-actress Vanessa Williams and her mom, Helen, talk to The Root about their intimate memoir.

David Livingston/Getty Images
David Livingston/Getty Images

Call it a mother’s instinct, but Helen Williams knew the marriage of her daughter, superstar Vanessa Williams, to then-Los Angeles Lakers star Rick Fox wouldn’t last.

Although she liked Fox, the elder Williams felt that her now-ex-son-in-law — who’s six years younger than Vanessa — was too immature and unable to handle being in a relationship with a celebrity of her daughter’s status.

To further prove her intuition correct, Fox publicly announced he was filing for divorce before informing Vanessa Williams — a move that left Helen Williams so furious that she was unable to speak when the then-couple told her in person they were divorcing. So how did the retired schoolteacher handle the news? Like any old-school schoolteacher would: by whacking Fox on the back of the head. She got her point across.

“Vanessa has had two failed marriages. Rick is a very different personality. And he really pursued Vanessa. You have two celebrity mentalities and minds clashing at some point. So that did not surprise me,” said Helen Williams to The Root, of her daughter’s marriages to her first husband and former manager, Ramon Hervey II, and to Fox.

A petite, retired music teacher, Helen Williams isn’t one to go around harming people. But the 72-year-old mother of singer, actress and first black Miss America Vanessa Williams definitely is no-nonsense. She also isn’t one to mince her words, as illustrated in You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other), the candid memoir she co-authored with her daughter.

To call You Have No Idea candid could be a bit of an understatement. The mother-daughter book shares very revealing episodes surrounding Vanessa Williams’ life, like the example of Helen Williams’ encounter with Fox.

“It’s my history. It’s my life story. The reason why I wrote my life story is to tell my life story. If the reader is inspired or is informed or gets to see the real person despite what they have assumed, then I think it’s been effective,” Vanessa Williams told The Root.