A best-selling author and a top-rated radio personality for 20 years, Wendy Williams welcomes a whole new experience as host of her own daytime TV talk show. Following last summer's successful six-week trial run, The Wendy Williams Show returns July 13 in national syndication with the self-proclaimed "Queen of All Media" promising the same no-holds-barred style that got her name dropped in the Mariah Carey hit "Touch My Body" ("'cause they be all up in my business like a Wendy interview"). Revealing the woman beneath the wigs, Williams lets us get all up in her infamous feuds and controversial reputation for outing celebrities.
By Brandon Voss
Advocate.com: A-list celebrities and their publicists can sometimes be intimidating. Can you share some tips on how to be a fearless interviewer like you?
Wendy Williams: Just ask your questions in a way that's not mean-spirited, but always be prepared to accept the answer "No comment." But you're a journalist, so you must be a little relentless and give it one more try but position the question in a different way. If it's still "no comment," take that for what it is and keep walking. Because if you push, your subject is going to become upset and recoil.
Should celebrities be nervous when they come on your show?
No. Whenever I hear that people are scared or intimidated by me, I just find that so funny. I'm actually very nice and quite a lovely woman. I'm very pink, if I can describe myself as a color. I just happen to be a very curious woman. I was a very curious child, and sometimes I was inappropriate with my questions and comments. Turns out that I'm the same as an adult, except now I know how to be a bit more appropriate. I've also learned how to take no for an answer. Celebrities should be excited to come on and promote their projects because I have one of the most relevant, vibrant, consumer-conscious, hip, and alive audiences on the face of the planet. My following is amazing. You show me a 75-year-old woman who watches The Wendy Williams Show and I'll show you the liveliest one in her group.
Does anyone intimidate you?
No. Not now that I have my own court.
You've described your show as "messy." For those who don't speak Wendy, what does that mean?
"Messy" is actually a wonderful compliment if you're not an anal-retentive personality. It means there's always something askew or there's always a hair or 10 out of place. It's fabulous, but there's always that one thing that makes you say, "What the f?" Like a beautiful outfit with a visible panty line. That makes us human. We're all messy in our own way.
How will your daytime chat show compare to Oprah Winfrey's and Tyra Banks's shows?
We're all black, we all have beautiful smiles, we all battle our weight, and we're all big women — though I'm a little bigger than Tyra. And Tyra and I wear the same color wigs. Otherwise, there really isn't much of a comparison. I love Tyra, but it's generally a one-topic show, and my show consists of hot topics, advice, and one-on-one celebrity interviews. And Oprah has turned more informational first and then entertainment second. Last time I turned on Oprah, I got some really great information about self-body-checks.
Have you heard from Tyra or Oprah regarding your new show?
Tyra sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. The note was really sweet and thoughtful, but it was very short; it said something about "congratulations." I appreciated hearing from her. I haven't heard from Oprah; I don't even know if Oprah knows who I am, to be honest with you. But I have heard from Gayle! During the six weeks [sneak preview], I wore a Roberto Cavalli dress that Gayle really liked, so she called my outfit people at the studio to ask, "What was Wendy wearing?"
Your show was recently named Most Guiltiest Pleasure at Logo's NewNowNext Awards.
That was a real honor. And against Burn Notice and Real Housewives, which are my guilty pleasures.
Is it safe to say that gays love you unless they're still in the closet?
I think they still love me even if they are in the closet, but they might not care for my particular stance about the closet. I'm such a free-spirited person that I couldn't imagine not being able to express myself in totality -- like not being able to walk down the street holding hands with my new love or not being able to bring someone home to meet the parents over Thanksgiving.
But you've been criticized for attempting to publicly out celebrities in the past. And even when you don't say it outright, fans know that your "how you doin'?" is pretty much code for "queen, please." Particularly in the hip-hop community, what good does it do to suggest that a closeted celebrity is gay?
For people who are fortunate enough to have fans or anyone looking up to them, if they keep something in the closet, it's like reminding their fans that it's something to be ashamed of. Like me — I've always had a nice crossover audience, but I am so proud of being a black woman, and I'm so proud to be flying that red, black, and green flag on TV. Being in the closet would be like me slouching because I'm six feet tall. Instead, I put on my heels and I'm six feet five. I can't imagine not being proud of what you are.
You share executive-producer credit with out Emmy winner Rob Dauber. Which gay celebrities would you like to have on your show?
I've already had Carson Kressley on [during my six-week trial run], and I know he'll be back around. Isaac Mizrahi. I love my Ru, I love my Rosie, and I love my Ellen. Let me think ... I'm scared to say any more because I'm trying to think, Wait, who's out of the closet and who's not? [Laughs] Oh, and Chaz Bono.
You should snag his first official TV interview as Chaz.
That would be legendary. But I've adored Chastity since her parents used to pick her up at the end of The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and take her backstage. I've adored her since before her weight problem and before she went on Celebrity Fit Club. I remember when Chastity first came out and Cher was very taken aback; it took Cher some time to adjust because she was afraid her little girl might not be into hair, makeup, and clothing. I'd love to have Chaz on the show.
Some have said that you finally met your match with guest Omarosa when you two butted heads on an episode during your show's six-week trial run. What was the real story there?
I couldn't believe that some people thought that was for publicity. That was no staged act. She was invited on the show because she had a new book out; she immediately became defensive, and I have no idea why. I could've gone there, and I certainly have it in me to go there, but I wasn't going there. What for? I'm trying to start a new career. I don't know what her agenda was, but my agenda for the entire six weeks was to hopefully get picked up and spend the remainder of my life doing daytime TV. But if I had gone there, I would've been showing you a Jerry Springer/Maury Povich moment. And I want all the viewers and guests to know that they will be treated kindly and with respect on my show. It's fun, it's tongue-in-cheek, but this is not Jerry Springer or Maury Povich.
Omarosa's not the first person to make a crack about your wigs. Is that the worst insult you can give a black woman?
It's not just a black woman thing; it's a woman thing period. You watch the Housewives — they immediately insult the weight, cosmetic surgery, the hair, the shoes, the skin condition. Me, I make it easy. I'm a visual calamity, so you have so many ways to go. But you're talking about something that I already talk about. And you know what? I've got a sharp, bitter tongue too. The difference between me and Omarosa — in that particular situation and from that day forth — is that I know how to bite my tongue, pull back a bit, and still be entertaining enough to have a long-lasting career on daytime TV. As for what Omarosa is doing right now? I don't know.
Partly because of your many wigs, colorful fashion statements, and breast enlargement surgery, Wendy haters often try to insult you by saying you look like a drag queen or transsexual — as if that's a bad thing.
Exactly! What, because I always put the extra effort in whatever it is that I do? The drag community always puts in that extra something, whether it's an extra row of lashes, an extra wiggle in the hips, or an extra tease of the hair. I'm a woman, and I celebrate being a girl. I'm sorry I don't like trucker hats and flat shoes.
In 2003 you conducted a famously tense radio interview with Whitney Houston, who has a new album out this fall. Do you smell a big comeback?
She has it in her to make a comeback, but the comeback will have a twist. Whitney is not Keri Hilson or one of these younger ingenues, but there is a place for Whitney. I've heard that this album is going to be really, really good, but I can't wait to find out how it actually sounds. I really want another interview with her. We have a lot in common — we're both from New Jersey, we're both women in our mid 40s, we've both dealt with substance abuse, and we're both mothers after trying for many years — so I think we could have a really great conversation. Let it be known that I would love to have Whitney on.
Here's a Wendy question for you: Have you ever messed around with a woman?
No, I haven't. I'm sure I've had opportunities, but I have a cat-trap too, and I can't get past that. Ew. The upkeep is ridiculous, and at times it's rather funky, so how do you have one and still want to deal with other ones? God bless the lesbians. Uck. I have no desire.
Advocate.com, July 2009.