|Date of Birth
||12 May 1963,
|Place of Birth
||Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, New York, USA
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Vanessa hails from Bedford Stuyvesant. She began her theatrical training at age 11 as a member of the New York City Opera's Children's Chorus. Hungry for someone to show her how to literally "get into the TV," she signed with a manager and began booking television commercials. After graduating from New York's famed High School of Performing Arts she earned a Bachelor's degree in theatre and business from Marymount Manhattan College.
Vanessa walked a tight rope balancing school and making a living as an actress. She earned professional union status performing in stage plays and as a featured extra on movie sets. An early break came when she landed a recurring role on The Cosby Show as Theo's scene partner in a school play, a high-strung student/actress named Jade Marsh. Impressed with her work, "Mr. C" asked her back to play the role of Theo's girlfriend Cheryl Lovejoy, a sweet young thing from Barbados.
Her New York stage credits grew to include the Lincoln Center production of Death and the King's Horseman and the Broadway productions of Sarafina and the Langston Hughes/Zora Neale Hurston collaboration, Mule Bone. The opening night for Mule Bone packed a double punch, as it was the same night that New Jack City was released in theaters nationwide. In this, her first feature film, Vanessa plays Keisha, the gun toting head of security, opposite Wesley Snipes as drug czar Nino Brown.
Vanessa arrived in Los Angeles in September of '91, "just to check it out." A month later she captured a supporting role in the Gothic horror film, Candyman. After making her west coast move official in January of '92, she got her big break as one of the stars in the Fox TV hit Melrose Place.
After her residence on Melrose Place she traveled to Spain to sing and host the variety show Grand Fiesta on the Telecinco network in Madrid. When she returned from abroad Vanessa was cast as a regular in Steven Bochco's critically acclaim series Murder One, where she earned her first NAACP Image Award Nomination.
After appearing in the film Mother, starring and directed by Albert Brooks, she went on location in South Africa to star in the feature, Letting Go, directed by the Oscar nominated director, Bernard Joffa. Vanessa followed these projects with a recurring role on Chicago Hope where she was again nominated for an NAACP Image Award.
Vanessa has starred in two BET original made for TV movies Incognito and Playing with Fire. She has also guest starred on numerous television shows including: Total Recall, The Pretender, NYPD Blue, The Steve Harvey Show, Malcolm and Eddie, and Living Single, among others.
She has been featured in two films which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival: Punks and Our America, the Showtime original movie directed by Ernest Dickerson, for which she received a Daytime Emmy Nomination.
As the hot mama, Maxine Chadway, in the hit Showtime series Soul Food, Vanessa nabbed the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series.
As an author, Vanessa has written a book of poetry and prose entitled: Shine. Her poems and essays have also been published in Essence Magazine. In the West Angeles Church production Have I Got A Story to Tell Vanessa wrote and performed The Sky is Falling.
As a filmmaker, she produced, co-wrote and directed the short film, Dense, for Showtime Television. Dense is currently playing in film festivals nationwide.
As a singer/songwriter, Vanessa performs her original work in the films Dense and the award winning short Driving Fish. She was also showcased at the Temple Bar in Stories in Song: an evening with Vanessa Williams. Vanessa is currently in the studio working on her first CD.