Veteran talk show host Wendy Williams got the New Yorker treatment recently, getting featured in one of the magazine's in-depth profiles. Writer Michael Schulman went behind the scenes at The Wendy Williams Show and at the host's home.
Wendy works like a well-oiled machine, from producers to William's glam squad. Showrunner David Perler shared insights. Schulman explained:
But letting Williams riff unfiltered has its pitfalls. She once questioned the concept of historically Black colleges ('I would be really offended if there was a school that was known as a historically white college'); after fans threatened to boycott the show and Chevrolet dropped its sponsorship, she apologized. And she’s been hit with occasional defamation lawsuits, most recently from a man who was taking pictures near Hilary Duff’s son in a public park, which Williams called 'creepy.' To ward off legal challenges, Perler watches from the control room, consulting (over Zoom) with the show’s lawyer. Whenever Williams wades into dicey territory, the lawyer alerts him, and he hits a button that makes the word 'allegedly' flash on the teleprompter in big yellow letters.
A lot of the time, it comes up two or three seconds too late, so Wendy says "allegedly" to something that wasn’t really the thing that we needed her to say "allegedly" about,' Perler said. Williams openly complains about this on the air—"Lawyer lady hit the button!"—as if being zapped by an electrode.
Historian Dr. Tanisha Ford of the CUNY Graduate Center reflected how on Williams' style of doing radio and TV interviews influenced young people today. She explained:
So much of the way that YouTubers frame their gossip segments is based on Wendy Williams. Wendy created the model for how you spill tea. And she was doing this in the nineties, before social media.
In her radio days, just like now, Williams wasn't afraid of tackling controversial topics. Schulman stated:
Don Lemon, who was then a local NBC correspondent, recalled Williams outing him after he was spotted at the gay bars on Twelfth Street. 'Listen, was it uncomfortable? Yes,' he told me. 'Was I in the closet? Not really. I just didn’t talk about it. Was it something where I was, like, "I wish this woman would shut up and stop talking about me"? Yeah.'
Don't miss the rest of this must-read profile!