dotsYou Have No Idea

Published on April 25, 2012 by Sonya's Spotlight

The highly anticipated first book by superstar Vanessa Williams, written with her mother, Helen Williams

A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other)
By Vanessa Williams and Helen Williams with Irene Zutell

“Sometimes, I thought Mom was being unfeeling when she stood over me while I silently begged for her affection. But in her own way, she was holding me tighter than I could really understand—she was teaching me the lesson I needed. I’m still learning. Mom has yet to say, I told you so.” – Vanessa Williams, from YOU HAVE NO IDEA

“A lot of parents think it’s important to be their child’s friend. When Vanessa was growing up, I didn’t care if she liked me. She could hate me as far as I was concerned—and sometimes I think she did. I wanted her to understand that I reacted the way I did because I knew she would continue to do things she would eventually regret.” – Helen Williams, from YOU HAVE NO IDEA

In YOU HAVE NO IDEA: A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other) (Gotham Books, April 17, 2012) Vanessa Williams and Helen Williams give a mother-daughter take on Vanessa’s personal and professional life journey, including the obstacles they’ve overcome together and the lessons they’ve learned along the way. During Vanessa’s turbulent teenage years, mother and daughter were constantly at odds, but despite their early conflicts, Helen has always ardently protected and supported her daughter, staying in contact with the FBI about the death threats Vanessa received after being crowned the first black Miss America, and being there for Vanessa through the birth of her four children and dissolution of her two marriages.

Throughout YOU HAVE NO IDEA Vanessa recounts the trials and tribulations she has had in her life, how she reinvigorated her television career in her 40s, and how she continues to rebound after all of life’s setbacks. Nothing is off limits: including the Miss America nude photo scandal, her marriages and subsequent divorces, and a few secrets that Vanessa has never before spoken publicly about. Williams chronicles her almost 30 years in the worlds of music, Broadway, and Hollywood, as well as her time on the sets of Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives. YOU HAVE NO IDEA also includes Helen’s thoughts on her daughter’s rollercoaster of a life, her own struggles and achievements, and her reactions to a few parts of Vanessa’s life that she didn’t even know about…until now. From her “list” of people who have wronged her and Vanessa over the years, to her 45 year-long marriage to the love of her life, Milton, Helen is sharp, funny, acerbic and fiercely protective of her daughter and her family.

YOU HAVE NO IDEA tells the story of a daughter, a mother, and their life journey thus far. But ultimately, it’s an empowering celebration of life’s surprise twists and turns—from the tragic to the triumphant. And as for the juicy stories that Vanessa and Helen tell —well, YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

About the Authors

Vanessa Williams is one of the most respected and multi-faceted performers in entertainment. Her critically-acclaimed work in film, television, music and the Broadway stage has earned numerous awards and honors. She has sold over 20 million albums worldwide and her numerous hit singles include The Right Stuff, The Comfort Zone, Save the Best for Last, and Colors of the Wind, the Golden Globe and Academy Award- winning theme from Disney’s animated feature, “Pocahontas.” She has starred on Broadway in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Into the Woods” and her many film credits include “Eraser,” “Dance With Me” and “Soul Food.” She has appeared in numerous mini-series and movies for television and has starred most recently on ABC’s “Ugly Betty” and “Desperate Housewives.” Williams has four children and divides her time betweenLos Angeles andWestchester County,New York.

Helen Williams retired in 1998 after 37 years in the Ossining Public Schools as a vocal music educator and former adjunct professor at Manhattanville College School of Education. Mrs. Williams was the recipient of the March of Dimes Mother of the Year Award in 2001 and was named a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow in 2006. She was also the recipient of the 2010 Jessie Hillman Award For Excellence from SUNY Fredonia and received the Uncommon Heights Award from the National Council of Negro Women in 2011. Mrs. Williams has two children, Vanessa and Chris, and four grandchildren. She lives inWestchester County,New York.

Irene Zutell is a journalist, author, and television producer. She is the author of Pieces of Happily Ever After, They’re Not Your Friends, and “I’ll Never Have Sex With You Again…Tales From the Delivery Room. Zutell is a featured contributor to the NBC website, and her cover stories and first person essays have been featured in People, Us Weekly, The New York Times, USA Today, The Huffington Post, and the Associated Press. She lives inLos Angeles with her husband and two children.


“Vanessa Williams is a beautiful human being with a fascinating story—one of dignity in the face of adversity, determination leading to triumph. She is a wonderful mother, a devoted daughter, a gifted actress, a brilliant performer, and a dedicated friend who has always shown up for me—and so many others—when it mattered most.”—Maria Shriver

“Vanessa Williams is such an inspiration, and her mother, Helen, is a dynamo. You Have No Idea is a book that will make you laugh, cry, and will ultimately leave you empowered to face whatever challenges life throws at you with grace and poise—just like these ladies have.”—Kristen Chenoweth

“I have known Vanessa for many years and have had the great pleasure of working with her in the past. She is a strong, dynamic, and truly remarkable woman and her story is one for the ages. You Have No Idea is a must read!”—Diahann Carroll

“Vanessa Williams is one of the most beautiful, talented, elegant and complex women I have ever come to know. Her story is sure to be an inspiration and a path for many who find themselves challenged but determined to succeed against all odds.” – Debbie Allen

“It’s about time Vanessa Williams wrote a book about her life. Few have triumphed in as many aspects of show business and few have survived as much personal adversity. I promise you will be entertained, touched and inspired by this wonderful woman’s story. (And if it sounds like I have a crush on her, I totally do.)”—Marc Cherry, Creator and Executive Producer of Desperate Housewives

Vanessa Williams photo- from

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