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Q&A With Vanessa Williams

The singer, dancer, model, and actress dishes about mothering, health habits, and the memoir she wrote with her mom.
By Linda Formichelli
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Singer, dancer, model, and actress Vanessa Williams has released hit songs, starred in Broadway musicals, feature films (think Eraser and Shaft), and TV series (including Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, and, starting this year, 666 Park Avenue). This year, she and her mother also published You Have No Idea: A Famous Daughter, Her No-Nonsense Mother, and How They Survived Pageants, Hollywood, Love, Loss (and Each Other).WebMD the Magazine caught up with the busy mother of four and asked her how she stays fit, how she stays grounded, how she feels about aging, and what it's like to write a book with your mom.

You've been an actor in ABC's Desperate Housewives, which is ending this month, and Ugly Betty before that, as well as a singer, dancer, and model. How do you find time to take care of yourself and stay fit?

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I make the time. I've got one child in school, so I gear my life around her schedule. You have to be really organized. I've been a mother for 24 years and before that I went from college to working, so it's hard for me to not have a schedule.

You and your mother wrote the memoir You Have No Idea. How did you decide to tell your story with your mom?

The older I get, the more I realize how important my parents were in terms of not only creating me but giving me the skills to cope in life. People always ask, "How are you so grounded?" It always comes back to me being brought up by two parents who were loving and supportive, but who also were terrific in terms of setting boundaries. Writing a book with my mother allowed me to reflect on what made me me.

How did your mom influence your health habits as you were growing up?

She was always extremely active. When I was growing up, if she wasn't taking the dog for a walk, she'd be in town doing an exercise class. We would ice-skate together as a family, so being active is something that both my parents did.

Did she teach you things that you have passed down to your own kids?

We always had fresh produce available because of my parents' love for gardening. I used to bring my kids over to my parents' house every year to pick pumpkins out of the pumpkin patch. So my kids learned to appreciate fresh vegetables.

Do you have a personal health philosophy?

I listen to my body. I don't weigh myself. I'm not obsessed with pounds -- if I feel good in my clothes, I feel good. If my clothes start to get tight, I know I've got to modify what I'm eating.

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