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You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other) Hardcover – 17 Apr 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham Books (17 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592407072
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592407071
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.2 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,128,971 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A revealing portrait of a fearless daughter and her feisty mother."

"A great, gossipy, advice-filled read for anyone, but moms, especially, will understand."

"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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Vanessa Williams is a Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award nominated singer, actress, and dancer. Vanessa will star in the upcoming ABC primetime drama "666 Park Avenue." She has four children and divides her time between Los Angeles and Westchester County, New York.

Helen Williams is a retired public school music teacher and former adjunct professor at Manhattanville College School of Education. She has two children, Vanessa and Chris, and four grandchildren. She lives in Westchester County, New York." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is amazing and so heartfelt. I have always been a massive fan of Vanessa Williams, through her singing career and acting in shows such as Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives. I was really looking forward to reading this book and it did not disappoint! 'You have no idea' touches upon some sensitive topics but does so with grace, so much that you feel as though Vanessa is telling you in person. I have read this book three times and am still not bored - it covers so much about Vanessa and Helen Williams' lives that I had no idea about. It is an interesting, surprising and emotional read and I will never grow tired of poring over the pages and laughing at cute and funny pictures included. This is my favourite book and after reading this I really do feel as though I am a part of their lives! I have so much admiration for Vanessa, and this grows every time I read 'You have No idea'. :)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x90c4ecc0) out of 5 stars 110 reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9078e780) out of 5 stars The best idea was reading this book 17 April 2012
By L. Young - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I read "You Have No Idea" in less than 24 hours. It's that good!

As a Vanessa Williams fan since her Miss America win, I'd known some aspects about her that were publicly disclosed. I've watched enough documentaries about Vanessa to win a game of trivia if challenged. And following Vanessa on Twitter (@vwofficial) is like reading a living book in real time. So while some fans only familiar with her early work ask, "What's Vanessa been up to?" and some new fans by way of her television resurgence in "Ugly Betty" and "Desperate Housewives" are unaware that she even sings, I felt that I already knew about Vanessa Williams. But even for longtime fans like me who think we know, the book proves that we have no idea. A few of her family members have stated that even they were unaware of some of the book's reveals. So "You Have No Idea" is truly a fitting title.


I don't typically read anything longer than a few paragraphs, so how'd I read a 285-page book in less than a day? Other than being a fan, the dynamic back-and-forth between mother and daughter captivated me. I found myself laughing and engaged. My favorite moments during the read were when, while entranced in Vanessa's story, Helen's framed `Let me tell you how it really happened' perspectives were inserted.

In some chapters, Helen delves further into her own story. You come to better understand the woman whose mannerisms and persona Vanessa used to breathe life into "Ugly Betty's" 'Wilhelmina Slater' character. But you also appreciate her as a parent (along with her late husband, Milton) who wanted the best for her children (Vanessa and Chris) and encouraged them to follow their dreams.

There are a couple of shockers. One was revealed before the book's release about the molestation. I urge you to buy and read the book because it doesn't end there. Those photos? There's more.

The book also includes unseen pics throughout of family and friends. It's as if getting a peek into a personal photo album from the Williams home. The photos also place faces with the names of people you'd just read about.

Speaking of names, I love that Vanessa names people like the woman who called her a "slut," and refused to cast her in a play based on her reputation at the time despite a riveting audition. Not only does the name `Vanessa Williams' now embody the phrase, "Success is the best revenge," but her story serves as a reminder to be kind to one another. You never know whom a person will turn out to be.

I was caught off guard while reading the part on Rick Fox. I knew about that story. Doesn't everyone? I expected to be angry with him, but in the final page of the chapter, reading Rick's poem put to song by Vanessa for Rick moved me to tears, and I'm not even a hopeless romantic.

As I read about Vanessa's father, Milton Williams Jr., I wondered what his perspectives would have been. What would he have said along with his wife, Helen? What about Bruce and the sofa scene, removing Vanessa's door when she was a rebellious teen, the construction fiasco that temporarily wedged their close relationship or his role and pride in her success today? But instead I wept, reading the details of her final goodbye to her father.

The book ends on an upbeat note. It's one about her children and how she addressed that famous scandal, which by today's standards is nothing.

If you thought you knew about Vanessa Williams, want to know more about her or need inspiration for yourself, read this book because "You Have No Idea."
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90a53de0) out of 5 stars The Vanessa Williams We Did Not Know 17 April 2012
By grace williams - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have just ordered the book on Kindle which I have inserted in my PC. This book is fantastic. Vanessa Williams exemplifies the word "survivor". She adamantly refused to permit "setbacks" and "scandals" deter her from being the supersuccessful triple threat that she is and will continue to be in years to come.

Vanessa details her adventurous childhood. She acknowledged that she loves adventure and that taking risks are part of her personality. She further divulged that when her parents forbade her to do something, she always saw a reason to do it. According to her mother, Helen, Vanessa was quite a headstrong child.

Vanessa demonstrated her strong willed character by riding a bicycle with her cousins without any protection. She stated that as a result of this adventure, she fell and injured her face. She further relayed that her mother had no iota of sympathy towards her whatsoever. She indicated that her mother believed that since she disobeyed the rules, she was to suffer the consequences of her actions. She stated that was the dictum of the Williams household- if you do not wish to listen, there will be dire consequences.

Vanessa endured many things such as racism and child molestation from an 18 year old family friend. She stated that because of the molestation, she started to rebel and to become more distant from her parents. She also recounts her teenaged years, especially falling in love with Bruce Hanson, whom her parents forbade her to see. However, whenever she could, she found an opportunity to be with Bruce once with quite disastrous results. She revealed how she had an abortion while in senior year and how it affected her.

Vanessa discussed her college triumphs which included winning several beauty contests culminating in winning the coveted Miss American contest. Helen stated how protective she was of Vanessa during that time because there was hate mail, including death threats. She further mentioned the pictures which lead to her dethronement. Helen stated that in the pictures, Vanessa's eyes betrayed her boldness. Helen revealed that Vanessa's eyes were sad. Helen further added that Vanessa subconsiously did not want to pose in those nude pictures.

After being "dethroned" as Miss America, Vanessa related how the road to success was quite perilous. She further related to starting at point zero at her career. She stated that during this time, people would interview her, including a very noted actor mentioning her nudity, thinking that she was a novelty. She knew that she had a long road and had to work beyond hard to have people take her seriously. Vanessa even mentioned that a noted owner of a play called her a pejorative name, indicated that if she obtained the part, her presence would draw a "certain" element to the theatre.

So Vanessa worked long and long, eventually obtaining success. In fact, more than that- she obtained respect. She garnered so much respect that she was asked to do another Broadway play. She proved that owner wrong- she was packing them in and the play extended its run thanks to her prodigious talents. More movies, records, plays followed. Then she got the role of a lifetime, Wilhelmina Slater, for which she was nominated for a couple of Emmys and winning NAACP awards.

In spite of her prodigious acting, dancing, and singing talents, she was a wife and devoted mother to four children. She is very honest detailing her two marriages and divorces to her mentor/manager, Ramon Hervey II and Rick Fox, basketball player. She wanted the marriages to last but unfortunately that was not to be. She was also a loving daughter to Helen and Milton Williams Jr., an esteemed educator, loved by his family and community. When he died, it emotionally impacted on her.

This was an awesome and beautiful book. It is at times joyful and at times, extremely sad but the book is an inspiration to all that no matter how bleak and dismal your life may be, no matter how many "mistakes" and "failures" you have, you CAN overcome and succeed. At heart, Vanessa is a truthful and unpretentious woman. She is also very traditional and old fashioned regarding her mores. She has led a life beyond reproach.

It is mother Helen who is the more liberal one. Helen is quite a woman- she has sass and vigor. Vanessa Williams is very traditional and old fashioned regarding her mores. She has led a life beyond reproach. I have found that it is mother Helen who is the more liberal one. Helen is fantastic, she has sass and vigor. I love this book as it presents the side of Ms. Williams that hardly anyone knew until now. I just could not put the book down and have finished it in 4 hours. Great read, you will definitely not regret purchasing this book!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x90b0ac9c) out of 5 stars Wow, I really had no idea 17 April 2012
By lsf - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book is incredibly entertaining! Vanessa is very honest and reveals a ton of ultra private information. I laughed, cried, and could not put this book down. I loved how Vanessa's mom Helen wrote her version of Vanessa stories, they didn't hold back any juicy details. I admire Helen's parenting strategy, which as a result has made Vanessa a pretty amazing mom herself. This is a story of hard work, persistence, and brutally raw honesty.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x907b6714) out of 5 stars At last the story is told! 17 April 2012
By Autobiography Lover - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At last - the full story is told! I have followed Vanessa Williams career since the evening she won Miss America. After all the drama and events that occurred during her reign and resignation, we never got the full story from her perspective. Of course the press had a field day with their angles, views and assumptions - but Vanessa forged ahead - focusing on her career and family - and enjoying her life. She knew one day the time would come to tell her story. And what an incredible story it is. Brilliant idea to co-write with her mother - then you get the full WIlliams Family story. Gotham - very clever of you!!

This book reads like you are having a conversation with Vanessa and her mom. You can't put it down and the selection of photos capture so many areas of the lives of these women - from early childhood, career, personal life - even Vanessa's dressing rooms. After this read, you will come away feeling as though you know her personally.

Great job all around to everyone!

Kim Davis
HASH(0x907eb750) out of 5 stars Through it All Vanessa Shines! 8 April 2016
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When people think of Vanessa Williams the first thing that comes to mind are the nude photos in Playboy Magazine that occurred around the same time that she became Miss America but all of that is in the past. What people don't realize is that there is much more to Vanessa Williams. You Have No Idea by Vanessa Williams and Helen Williams gives the inside story into the life of Vanessa, from the woman to the versatile entertainer that she is today. Hear story accounts from her no-nonsense mother, Helen about the challenges of being parents to Vanessa, who grew up rebellious and a risk-taker; about the death threats that Vanessa and her family received when she became the first black Miss America; and how the nude photos of Vanessa were leaked to the steps that Vanessa took to become a well-respected and talented music and entertainment artist.

I enjoyed reading You Have No Idea by Vanessa Williams and Helen Williams because when I saw her dancing in the movie, Dance with Me or see her acting in A Diva's Christmas Carole, sharing a life with basketball player, Rick Fox or singing Save the Best For Last it displays her resiliency and longevity not only in the industry but in life. She did not let any of her past cloud her future. If you're looking for a story about life and overcoming obstacles You Have No Idea by Vanessa Williams and Helen Williams is a good choice.
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