Show Girl: Wendy Williams On Leading An Army Of One
TV magic is a real phenomenon. While the set of The Wendy Williams Show appears vast on-screen, one trip behind the scenes evokes a new appreciation for the larger-than-life personality of its star. Expanding the surprisingly small confines of Chelsea Studios in New York City, Williams’ affinity for pizazz is more than a testament to her cameraman. Channeling that zeal at the tender age of nine, her success is not a product of hesitation.
“I stomped in the yard knowing what I wanted to do,” she tells VIBE. “I didn’t grow up rich; there was no money tree in the backyard of the Williams home. So I knew I had to something, and I had to do it quick. There was nobody to pass stuff down because I’m not from privilege. You crap, or get off the pot.”
And stay on the pot she did. After crafting a media takeover from radio personality, to seven-time New York Times best-selling author, to nationally syndicated queen of daytime TV, Williams is now setting her sights on fashion with a new clothing line with HSN. Between sorting the compartments of her busy life as a mother, wife and business woman, self-reliance has steered the path through multi-industry endeavors.
Wendy Williams has but one best friend: Wendy Williams. – Iyana Robertson
What I do in one word:
My MLK Moment (realizing the dream):
I was maybe nine years old when I knew what I wanted to be. And eventually, it became solidified in sixth grade. I forget how old you are in sixth grade, but I knew I wanted to be a radio broadcaster or a news broadcaster. I knew that school was not for me. I think that school is something that is necessary for children, and I would push it on my kids the same way my parents pushed it on me. But I always knew I wanted to be a showgirl. My parents always told me I had that flair, and I always felt it. But not to be an actress or something like that, but just to be a newscaster.
Why I can’t relate to people who can’t figure it out:
No I can’t. I can’t. Honestly, I cannot relate to a senior in high school who can’t figure it out. And I really can’t relate to a junior in college who can’t figure it out. I can’t relate to that unless your parents are so wealthy that they present financial opportunities for you to have options, and I don’t come from that. So, no. I can’t relate.
On learning to compartmentalize being a boss, wife and mother:
I can tell this you regarding men. I’m a boss all day. I leave here at 6 ‘o'clock in the morning – boss all day. But when I get home – let me tell you what I have on the stove right now: I have some cube steaks marinating with green peppers, red pepper and yellow peppers and onions. Baked potato on the side with some collard greens and some ham hocks in the collard greens. I can do that and I feel comfortable telling [young women] this: never let go of being a woman. When you get home from work, you leave that angry, briefcase mess in your car in the glove compartment and lock it. And you come in your house, and you be a woman. A man still loves a woman, and children don’t understand their mom being a boss, unfortunately. They understand their mom being a mom.
A woman has to learn how to compartmentalize her mess. You put your boss lady mess in this basket and leave it over there. You put your womanly, sexy, wifely, girlfriend duties right here, and then you put your mom duties here. And if you have to scream and yell and be a boss at 10 o’clock at night, you take your phone, you go in the closet, and you talk that mess, and come back out. And you better have your nails done.
On havng “I sound just like my mother” moments:
I am my mom more than I thought I’d ever be. But I delight in that because my mom is my biggest role model over every woman on the face of the earth. She raised three kids; I’m the middle one. She’s held onto her man for 57 years, and he still thinks she’s hot. So my mom is my idol. Have I turned into my mom? Yes, in a 30 percent way, I’m frightened. But 70 percent of me says, ‘I love that woman. If I can only be a portion of what she is, then I’ll be great.’
On keeping my son out of the limelight:
It’s too private. I’ve been a public figure all of my adult life, and my son did not ask to be born into this. All he knows is his mom is a showgirl by day, and mommy after the show. Even though people think that I just say anything when I get out there in the purple chair, what they don’t understand is, I have a very private life between me and my husband, my son and the rest of my family that I am very, very conscious about not sharing. He didn’t ask for this; I am not one of those celebrity moms who throws their kids out on the firing line. I protect Kev. And he’s 14, so you remember what that was like. I protect his maturation with everything. So I can’t share. But he and I have gone through our ebbs and flows, and I must say that we’re great – now [laughs].
The last time I said sorry:
My sister told me many years ago, ‘Stop saying sorry all the time. You say it so much, it almost means nothing.’ But I always say sorry. I got out of the car in the driveway, and my driver was coming around to open the door and I said, ‘No you don’t have to come out, sorry,’ because he already opened his door. I’m like ‘Sorry, I got my own bags.’ Sorry is my Achilles heel. My sister is right; I need to stop apologizing so much for stuff that is just regular, civilized behavior. Sorry is a word I need to stop using.
What I’ve learned about body image over the years:
If you’re under 30, take care of your body. I’m warning you because it’s something that I didn’t really understand or respect until I had our son at 37. All of a sudden, after several miscarriages, I developed a tremendous respect for a woman’s body and what we can go through mentally and physically. And now that I’m 50 – I’ll be 51 in July – I brag about that. Because I want younger girls to understand that 50 is not old; don’t be scared of 50. If anything, you want to own your body well before 50, so once you get here, you’re good. In the meantime, my thought on my own body is: it is what it is. It is what it is, and you make the most of it. I’ve got large breast, a small waist and no behind at all. But you know what? I love me and I am strong and I capable, physically. That’s it.
Why I am my own best friend:
I don’t know how other people go about handling [criticism], but I know for me personally, it’s become about being introspective, looking within. Not to my mom and dad. Not to my husband, my son, my siblings, not a best girlfriend. I am my own best friend, and that’s real. And I find that that is the safest place to be. I’ve got some good, smart people around me, but at the end of the day, when all else is left, I trust one – and that’s me. I am my own best friend.
On making sure that the people around you contribute to your advancement:
When I graduated from college, I literally left for my first radio job two weeks later. I was a serious career woman, two weeks later. I had that job stapled down a month before graduation. My friends, who were criminal justice majors and wanting to be doctors and whatnot, they went on to sell Estee Lauder at Macy’s. You know how that goes. When you graduate from college and friends go off, and don’t land jobs in their careers, so they end up selling rent-a-cars at Enterprise.
Me, I’ve never done that. I’ve always worked in my career and I’ve always looked at my friends who had all this “ambition” like, ‘You can’t help me, I can’t help you. You’re not even good for a meal out, because we can’t even talk about the same thing. I’m going off to my fly radio career, and you’re going off to sell ropes at Home Depot. But you want to be a doctor. How does that help me? You’re not even motivating me.’ When you become older, you’ll understand. If somebody is not contributing to your advancement, then they are useless. And I mean in any way or form. Whether it’s spiritual, career-wise, family, or whatever. If somebody is not contributing, then they are useless. I don’t need useless people; I’d rather be by myself.
VIBE Presents: In A League Of Their Own
She Got Game: Meet WNBA President, Laurel Richie
One-Woman Show: A Closer Look At Soledad O’Brien
The Blueprint: Karen Civil On Rocking The Industry And Beyond
Poetry In Motion: Ballerina Misty Copeland On Standing Out
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Meet Lifestyle Connoisseur, Miss Diddy
Nothin’ But Sweat: Meet Personal Trainer, Massy ‘Mankofit’ Arias
Ladies First: ESPN’s Cari Champion On Taking Charge In A Male-Dominated Industry
Last Laugh: Aisha Tyler On Being A Woman In Comedy
Fortune Cookie: Taraji P. Henson On Building Your Own Empire
High Notes: Meet BMI Vice President, Catherine Brewton
Flex Zone: Meet Hollywood Trainer, Jeanette Jenkins
Down For The Cause: Meet Petals-N-Belles Founder, Damali Elliott
Controlling The Narrative: Meet Marketing Maven, Tricia Clarke-Stone
Electric Lady: Janelle Monae On Starting A Movement
Voice Of Power: Angie Martinez On Making Bold Moves
Homerun Hitter: Egypt Sherrod On Planning Your Next Takeover
Breaking Barriers: Meet First Latina CEO Of Girl Scouts, Anna Maria Chávez
Super Powers: Tia Mowry-Hardrict On Balancing Career, Motherhood And Marriage
The People’s Champ: Meet FYI Brand Communications CEO, Tammy Brook
Red Carpet Slayer: Meet E! News’ Alicia Quarles