How Vanessa Williams Keeps Shining Bright After 25 Years on the Road

As part of E!’s Backstage Pass, Vanessa Williams previewed Feinstein’s/54 Below Diamond Series just in time for the holiday season. Here's what she had to say.

By Mike Vulpo Dec 15, 2022 5:29 PMTags
Watch: See America Ferrera & Vanessa Williams' Ugly Betty Reunion

Congratulations! You just scored a backstage pass to the hottest tickets in town.

Your favorite artists continue to hit the road and entertain audiences with brand-new shows. But with so much talent, it's hard to experience every single event. Fortunately, we're offering an all-access ticket to every must-see concert of the year. Welcome to E!'s Backstage Pass.

Vanessa Williams knows how to shine bright like a diamond.

Since 1997, the Grammy nominee has traveled around the world performing her long catalogue of hits including "Save the Best for Last" and "Colors of the Wind."

But as the holidays approach, Vanessa decided to join Feinstein's/54 Below's Diamond Series for six performances Dec. 13-18. The opportunity is something the 59-year-old can't wait to experience.

"It's one thing to be on stage with somebody that you're doing a choreographed and directed Broadway show," Vanessa exclusively shared with E! News. "But then when you see them doing their own stuff and listen to their stories, there's a whole other aspect of someone's personality when you hear about their lives and you hear about the songs that they choose to sing."

Musicians Performing Live on Stage

When stepping into the iconic New York venue, guests will be greeted with a welcome drink and hors d'oeuvres ahead of a three-course dinner and an up-close and personal performance by the Ugly Betty star.

Michael Allan Galvez

And with Vanessa inviting her 4-piece band and longtime background singer Shelley Thomas Harts, guests are in for a magical evening filled with stories, music and laughs.

"The night will be filled with class and glamour, but also a nice warm experience of recollection and jazz," she teased. "Luckily, I can sing a lot of hits that I've had for 30 years plus and R&B and maybe some call outs from some famous friends that'll be in the audience because I've got a lot of friends that are going to be there. Who knows what duets may ensue?"

That spontaneity is what keeps Vanessa excited to perform night after night.

Michael Allan Galvez

And whether she's acting on the small screen, taking the stage on Broadway or performing in a venue where she can lay eyes on every attendee, Vanessa promises that no two shows are exactly the same.

"There is never the same audience or the same feel each night," she said. "When you're standing in a circle doing your prayer to get ready to go out and give it the best show you've given and then you're out there as a band making music, that never gets old. When you're giving that music to people and affecting people, that never gets old."

Keep scrolling for more behind-the-scenes access into Vanessa's Diamond Series performances.

Vanessa Williams' 54 Below Diamond Series
Magical Moments

From Dec. 13-18, Vanessa Williams will be spreading cheer at New York's legendary 54 Below. "Tis the season," she told E! News before opening night. "The Diamond Series is just a perfect opportunity to have a nice long run and also bring my show that I've done all over the world to 54 Below." 

Broadway Goes Below

On opening night of her Diamond Series Dec. 13, Vanessa and her background singer Shelly Thomas Harts received support from the stars of Broadway's POTUS, including Julianne Hough, Lea DeLaria and Rachel Dratch.

Bravo, Bravo

Whether it's coming from a friend or stranger, Vanessa enjoys hearing a few heartfelt compliments from fans who see her live. "I love the fact that people say you sound like your record because I say, 'Cuz I'm really singing on my record,'" she joked. "Also, 'You made me cry.' I've got great songs that mean things to people and they get connected to the lyrics and the melody." 

New York Magic

Whether you're enjoying date night with your partner or a girls' night out, Vanessa believes you'll have a blast at her show. "You could be alone and sit at the bar and order your food and enjoy a wonderful evening," she added. "But it's not only me and my music, but it's also the room. The room feels intimate and the room feels special." 

Come Close

While Vanessa has plenty of experience performing in front of thousands of people, these shows are much more intimate. "It's almost like back in the day when MTV used to have their acoustic set or their unplugged series where you're literally sitting on a stage or a stool and everyone is around you at your feet," she said. "It's the same kind of feel. It's an experience."

Trust the Pro

With so much experience under her belt, Vanessa has little to no fears before showtime. "We'll of course do the soundcheck, but I've been on the road since 1997," she said. "The band is the same band that I've had so I can literally throw them anything and they can remember it or get their sheet music and we can go deep in terms of our archives. It's just fun. It's like family up there."

Need more backstage access? Find out why Harry Connick Jr.'s holiday tour is here to sleigh. Plus, discover how Brett Eldredge's holiday tour snowballed into his most magical project. 

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