Vanessa Williams shines both onscreen and off. As a beauty guru in the industry, her timeless elegance and talent continue to inspire by way of the series Queen of the Universe, where she brings her expertise and uplifting spirit to the judging panel alongside the talented Trixie Mattel, Michelle Visage, and Mel B. Hosted by charismatic Brit Graham Norton, the second season premiered on June 2 on Paramount+.
On a recent summer evening at New York’s new exclusive Hôtel Barrière Fouquet, Williams—a singer, actress, songwriter, international fashionista and the first Black Miss America—sat for a talk about her new show, her love for Los Angeles, beauty must-haves, and recording a new album.
Los Angeles: With the success of season one of Queen of the Universe, what we can expect from season two?
Vanessa Williams: You can expect more production, more dancers, more of everything. The talent is amazing. The queens that are represented are still global, and it is truly engaging. Plus, the audience is always part of the results, so stay tuned for more shockers and more fabulous talent live singing by drag queens.
All of the judges seem like a tight crew, how was the dynamic welcoming Spice Girl Mel B into the mix?
Yes, Michelle, Trixie, and myself have become great friends along with Graham Norton who is our host. Welcoming Mel B into our fold was a lot of fun. She brings so much energy and a fresh perspective on the show, and the audience loved having one of their own be part of the panel since we shot in London. Mel B has got a lot of experience being a judge on other shows, and we welcomed her with open arms. We had a couple of private dinners as friends and judges. She would travel home to see her children on our days off, which we completely understood, but she was a lot of fun. We do miss Leona Lewis, who had an adorable baby girl, and we still keep in touch with Leona as well.
Going into season two, how has your judging style changed?
I don’t think it has changed. I am very encouraging. I think I can give my knowledge of being a singer, performer, and showgirl, and impart that on how the queens that can make their performances stronger and more reflective of their true talents. I always say follow your skill set—what you are good at—and amplify that. We do have one contestant, Viola, who is a musician, and the wonderful thing about this particular queen’s approach is that she used to play the violin. Having a musical background [was] her edge, and it worked perfectly. So, not much change in my judging style but happy to be back and happy to still be encouraging.
You spend a fair bit of time in L.A.; what do you love most about Los Angeles?
I do live in New York, but I have lived in L.A. since 1985 in several different houses between jobs and marriages. I love working out of L.A.—one of the best feelings is renting a new house and starting a new production. We did Ugly Betty for two seasons in L.A. I did Desperate Housewives for two seasons out there. I’ve shot many films and recorded many albums in L.A., so it holds a dear place in my heart. And obviously right now, I have two children that live there plus my brother, so I do visit often and will always cherish my time in L.A. Whether it be renting a house on Mulholland, remembering driving my daughter to swim practice at UCLA, or going to my son’s graduation at FIDM, L.A. holds a special place in my heart.
Can you share your day-to-day skincare/beauty routine?
My approach to beauty has certainly evolved due to science. The wonderful thing about the age of technology nowadays is that beauty products have many more ingredients that help collagen, which includes peptides. The technology for skin tightening with radio frequency and nano frequency continue to progress, and there are so many machines that can give you results without having to go under the knife and have surgery. That is what I love about beauty and science right now, and I do believe that it will continue to be better. There will be more options for everything that you need specifically, whether it’s tightening your stomach, losing fat, or making sure your skin is taut, boosted, and clear, and that is what is what I love about beauty and technology right now.
When I’m doing myself—I mean, luckily when I’m doing Queen of the Universe—I’ve got a fantastic glam squad who’s amazing and mixing it up every day. But in terms of beauty, I just turned 60 a couple months ago!
What are your thoughts on aging?
My feeling toward aging is that it’s nothing to be negative about. The fact that I am here, I am still creating, I’m still about to go in and work on more music, is a blessing. The fact that I just finished a run on Broadway is a blessing. The fact that I’m alive is a blessing. I have much gratitude. I think that’s how you have to look at aging. Be thankful that you’re still given the opportunity to be alive and hopefully surrounded by family and doing things that you love. And that attitude, I think, sustains you and keeps any kind of judgment or negativity away.