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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2012
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.

MY REVIEW

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."
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2012
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!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2012
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.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2012
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
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2012
First book in a long time I could not but down, from the beginning it had me, I could not wait to get to the next chapter, a lot parts hit home. I knew after the Ms. America thing it was going to be hard for her, but Wow!!! But she made it through and look at her now! The book is real, not sugar coated , telling both sides the way they did was amazing-been a fan of Ms. Williams from the beginning - I think I just became a bigger one, Vanessa and her mom have been through a lot - the book is a easy read, it a fantastic read and I've leaned a few things by reading it, IT'S A MUST READ!!!!! Simply thank you Vanessa and Helen Williams
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2012
Okay, so after a long ordeal with trying to download the book I finally got it and let me hones--I finished it in 4 hours, uninterpreted. The candid nature of Vanessa William's and of her mother, Helen Williams, was quite refreshing. Usually you expect a celebrity memoir to either be bitter and bashing or vague and boring yet this was none of the above! I was always interested, turning the page, never wanting to put it down. My only wish is that I still lived in New York so I can get the book signed :(

Something that I know a lot of people were looking forward to reading was her discussion on her previous marriages. She never really spoke out about her relationships, in detail that is. I have to say that I was impressed in the manner that she spoke, positively yet real (You could tell you she was being honest rather than sugar-coating what happened). I also enjoyed the spiels that offered the perception of Ms. Helen Williams like it was the side of the coin that you never see.
Don't want to tell too much--Get the book for yourself and READ IT! I promise you won't put it down!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2012
Vanessa sprinkled this book with very personal information such as abortion, molestation and racial discrimination (to aid promotion?) but left out very significant periods of her life/career which add up to almost decades. She skims over her two divorces which is not fair to the reader because after she reveals "the other stuff", one expects more, a more complete story. So she drifted apart from her first husband? Really? Because in countless interviews she indicates there was infidelity involved. Seems odd to not acknowledge the facts that she (and media) already reported years ago. To be fair, perhaps she did not want the book to include "too much" personal info but then again, in comparison to the abortion/molestation revelations it all would just pale in comparison re shock value. And it sort of defeats the purpose of referring to the book as "tell all" as she did in a couple of promotional interviews. Overall, it left me with mixed emotions. Vanessa is very likeable and seems genuine. She certainly faced much adversity in her life and managed to establish a solid career in the entertainment industry. The book is comprised of some interesting stories and chronicals her career milestones but lacks depth-there are no references to the author's philosophy on life in general or any deep issues. She briefly touches on her parenting style but it also leaves the reader unsatisfied with how generic her explanations are. Perhaps I expected a lot more from this autobiography because ive always perceived Vanessa as more of an intellectual. Sadly, the writing left me dissapointed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2012
The book is cleverly written from the perspective of both daughter and mother. Vanessa shares her accounts of what happened throughout her life followed by Helen's recollection of the same events in an honest and sometimes humorous way. I admire Vanessa's independent spirit and Helen's guidance through their journeys. You Have No Idea will make you laugh, cry and most of all - reflect about life lessons. This book is a great read for mother/daughter duos. Bravo!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2012
This was an interesting background story to a very public one. Importantly, in many ways, this mimics 1) every mother's experience with a bright, talented and self assured daughter and 2) every daughter's experience with a strong, caring but firm mother...who enjoys a good laugh, a child's success, and the role of mother at the risk of not being her friend.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2012
A more appropriate title could not have been chosen for this book for me. I won an advance reading copy of "You Have No Idea" through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I normally steer clear of biographies about modern-day public figures, as I don't really want to know the minutiae of their lives. However, I have vowed to read five auto/biographies this year so I signed up for the giveaway based on the subtitle only - without noticing the subject or author. I thought, "Famous daughter equals biography. I'll take it." When the book arrived in the mail, I had no idea who it was about. I opened envelope and saw the cover. I did a mental eye roll thinking, "Not a tell-all about beauty pageants book."

I am trying to read 150 books this year so I dug into this book based on my #nobookleftbehind policy. I am glad that I did. My first impression was quite wrong. Yeah, I know. Don't judge a book by its cover. While "You Have No Idea" addresses the Miss America scandal (how could it not), the book covers the many sides of Vanessa Williams - singer, actress, dancer, wife, mother, daughter and now author.

What's really unique (to me) about this book and makes it a worthwhile read is the collaboration with Vanessa's mother, Helen. They wrote their sections separately so you get to see how events in Vanessa's life were perceived from each of their sides. (I think that this would be an interesting exercise for others to try with their parents.) Some events Helen knew about and others she didn't find out about until working on this book. Vanessa was a rebellious teen and, for better or worse, that character trait seemed to follow her into adulthood. Despite the rebellious vs. no-nonsense personality clashing, it is obvious that Helen has been a strong anchor in Vanessa's life. And Vanessa clearly values and finds strength in her family.

Vanessa Williams is extremely candid about her experiences and the people who have come into (and sometimes out of) her life. I think that readers will be pleasantly suprisedly. Subject matter aside, the book itself is a bit off to me. If Vanessa hadn't had such an eventful life or had been less candid, the book would have been a tougher read. The writing style is a little blah - almost textbook like at times. The chapter formatting is a bit confusing and sometimes the text rambles into oddly placed anecdotes (like meals).

All in all, it's an interesting read. If it's true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, Vanessa Williams just might be a modern-day Hercules. You have no idea. Get the book and find out for yourself.

Recommended for:
- Fans of Vanessa Williams
- Biography readers
- Readers who like stories about strength through adversity
- Gossip hounds

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