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These Legs Were Made for Fashion

It might not come as a surprise that Vanessa Williams, in the music video for her new single, “Legs (Keep Dancing),” can be seen showing off her legs.

Some may remember her showing off a lot more in a 1984 issue of Penthouse, that, after being published, led Ms. Williams to become the first Miss America forced to give up her crown, a decision that the pageant’s leaders have since apologized for.

Her legs in the “Legs” music video, unlike in the Penthouse photos, are for the most part clothed. Moschino shorts and fishnets, a spangly gold bodysuit and a pink feathered outfit are among the many items Ms. Williams, 61, wears while moving — mostly dancing — between locations that include a white-walled studio, a dimly lit limousine and a nightclub.

For certain viewers, Ms. Williams’s colorful wardrobe in the video might evoke other aspects of her career as an actress and singer, say, her past role as fashion editor Wilhelmina Slater in the TV show “Ugly Betty,” or her upcoming role as Miranda Priestly, the Anna-Wintour-inspired fashion editor, in the musical adaptation of “The Devil Wears Prada,” arriving in London’s West End later this year.

Ms. Williams, speaking on a phone call on Tuesday after flying from Japan to New York, said that certain attire worn in the “Legs” video had connections to some of her past roles. For instance: A silky chartreuse corset and matching cargo pants by Adrienne Landau, a label she has worn since her days on “Ugly Betty.”

Another ensemble of sheer black top and zipper-covered red pants came from Trash and Vaudeville, the punk emporium in Manhattan’s East Village.

An ensemble of sheer black top and red zipper-covered pants came from the store Trash and Vaudeville in New York.Credit…WMG
A spangly gold bodysuit worn beneath a sparkly fringed belt brought to mind Ms. Williams’s reputation as a diva who embraces fashion.Credit…WMG

Ms. Williams, who developed her wardrobe for the video with the stylist Alison Hernon, said the clothes they chose were pieces she feels comfortable in and “that feel comfortable on my body.”

She added that her outfits in the video for “Legs,” her first non-holiday-related single in 15 years, were meant to not only highlight the song’s titular anatomy, but also what she described as its underlying message: That her decades-long career is ongoing and ever-expanding.

“I’m still here, still standing, still kicking,” Ms. Williams sings on the dance-pop single. “In fact, I’m the best I’ve ever been.”

“I’ve got a lot of stuff going on,” Ms. Williams said on the phone. Her to-do list includes plans to release a full-length album on a newly announced record label. She is also a producer of a new musical about the trumpeter Louis Armstrong, which is coming to Broadway around the same she starts performances of “The Devil Wears Prada” in London.

Ms. Williams has followed a career path blazed by Black performers like Diana Ross and Diahann Carroll, both of whom also served as inspiration for “Legs” and its music video, which opens with Ms. Williams dropping a cream-colored Michael Kors coat and a Worth & Worth hat — attire nodding to clothes Ms. Ross wore in the 1975 film “Mahogany,” Ms. Hernon said.

A line in the song’s chorus, “They say the legs are the last to go,” echoes the title of Ms. Carroll’s memoir, “The Legs Are the Last to Go,” released in 2008. Its cover featured a leggy portrait of Ms. Carroll, who died in 2019.

Ms. Williams, who starred in the film “The Courage to Love” alongside Ms. Carroll, said that the title and cover of her memoir reflect how, “with age, comes wisdom.”

“She’s realizing and accepting her body shape and all that comes with it,” Ms. Williams said. “And that’s what I think is reflected in what I wanted to say with this phase of my life and also in the music.”

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