This year, a self-described “messy” bombshell hit the television talk-show circuit—and her name is Wendy Williams. (By the way, her fans will be thrilled to know that The Wendy Williams Show—with the host saying her signature line, “How you doin’?”—has been extended through the 2011-12 season.) In a candid interview with Windy City Times, Williams talked about everything from her recent induction in Chicago’s National Radio Hall of Fame to why many gay people love her.
WCT: (Andrew Davis) How are you doing, Wendy?
WW: (Wendy Williams) How you doin’, Andrew?
WCT: [Laughs.] You know, it’s a little surreal right now. I’m talking with you and, yet, I’m also watching your show.
WW: Isn’t that weird? Yes, it’s a Friday, and we’re live from New York Monday through Thursday; the Friday show is taped Thursday afternoon at about 1:30. So on a Friday recently I walked into a place for breakfast—and there I was on TV in the bar area. It was weird, you know?
WCT: I have to say that you’re really rocking that dress.
WW: Oh, the pink one? Thank you! It’s Robert Rodriguez. And you know what? When I saw Chris Brown’s video, I said, “Oh, my gosh. Cassie [the female singer in the video] is wearing a similar dress to what I have on.” And her hair is pushed to the side, the way mine is. [Note: Singer Chris Brown was Williams’ guest this particular day.] I had no idea, but there I am!
WCT: What was it like interviewing Chris Brown? Did you have any preconceived notions going in?
WW: No, because I had met him before—maybe twice, at the most. I didn’t have any preconceived notions. The first time I met him I thought, “Here is a young boy with a whole lot of talent: the singing, the dancing, the charm, the charisma.” He’s one of the rare young men in R&B and hip-hop who’s over 4’2” and he has a nice smile. I was very disappointed to hear about what happened back in February [when he assaulted his then-girlfriend, singer Rihanna], but I had no preconceived notions. I watched the video and had some conversation with him.
WCT: It seems like you’re getting increasingly comfortable with your show. Do you feel you’ve made it as a TV host?
WW: No. [Laughs] I don’t like to be presumptuous, but I thought I had at least the [moxie] to get off the starting block. I’ve always had some sort of interest in having my own daytime talk show. That interest does not come without totally focusing on [aspects] like what types of guests I wanted and how I would act. This whole process is a culmination of my wildest dreams come true. I know it’s more exciting to say, “One year ago, I was a nurse on the eighth floor of a hospital...” I’ve prepared all my life for this moment.
WCT: Something I like about you is that you’re enjoyably over the top but you also keep it real. You remind me a lot of Dolly Parton in that way—and it was pretty fitting that you dressed as her for your Halloween show.
WW: [Giggles] I love Dolly and I love that comparison. I take that as the highest honor for you to read through all the people you could compare me to and pick this woman because of the audacity she has to be herself. That is the highest compliment. Thank you.
WCT: Last night on The Jay Leno Show, she was asked, “What’s the first thing you do in the morning?” She said, “I put my dress on and go home.”
WW: [Laughs] Oooh—the sloppy, messy answer! I love it!
WCT: I don’t know if you recall this, but on an episode [in August] you were talking with this woman in the audience who was talking about her battles with food and weight, and you started crying.
WW: I’m such a crybaby. I don’t recall that, but so many women identified with me. Maybe I haven’t gone through it, but they’re comfortable asking me something. Or maybe they’ve heard me mention something, like weight. Again, I can be nothing but flattered.
I just love this whole talk-show world that’s been created for me (with this supportive staff) and by me, because I’m not scared to be myself. The idea that, in one hour, we can go from hot topics to celebrities—today I’m talking with Chris Brown and the fabulously legendary Diahann Carroll, in a short tank dress with sweaty armpits [Interviewer laughs.]—to our “Ask Wendy” segment... I love this show. It’s fabulous—and I can do it all in five-inch heels. [Both laugh.]
WCT: I have to admit that I saw you talking about your pits with [guest] Shanna Moakler.
WW: OK—don’t start yelling at me, Andrew. I don’t sweat like that in real life. But when I get under the lights ... it has nothing to do with nerves, believe me.
I’ve felt like I’ve worked out with this show; I’m up in the audience, even when you guys aren’t looking. I’m at the top or I’ll be off to the side saying hello to a [disabled] person. There’s even a “How you doin’?” lounge with extra audience members who you don’t see, and I’m saying hello back there. I am fully involved.
So, one day I had on a silk blouse and it stained black [because of sweat]. So [Today’s] Hoda Kotb sent me an e-mail telling me to use make-up powder puffs under my arms—and, I’ll be damned, the puff worked. So she deserves a big “How you doin’?” But the show is so much fun.
WCT: How do you handle awkward moments? I remember on that show with Shanna, she called [reality-TV star] Khloe Kardashian a “donkey.”
WW: I really don’t have that many choices. When she mentioned that, it was the end of our talk segment. I know she wanted to plug her new make-up line. When she made the comment about Khloe, I knew I couldn’t expound on it. I wanted to make sure [Moakler] got out of the interview what she wanted—which wasn’t just announcing that she is again involved in Miss America; it was also to let me and the world know that she has a new make-up line out called Smoke. As a good interviewer, I feel that, although Shanna makes good TV, my guests get to promote what they came for. All I could do is look, bite my lip and say, “So you have a new make-up line out...”
That was my first time meeting Shanna, and I really like her. I’ve known the Kardashians, and I like them a lot, too. In fact, the girls are coming back to the show in December.
With TV, you only have a certain amount of time to make a point—which is something I’m learning every day. On radio, I had four hours.
WCT: Why do you think you resonate with so many members of the gay community?
WW: Probably because we share [the fact] that we’re not like the rest—from the beginning. There’s having a surprise to pop on the world; for me, it was, “Guess what, world? I’m not perfect. I am who I am. I’m taller and bawdier—and I’m not going to do anything about it. I’m not going to fit into your perfect little box.” With a gay man or woman, it’s, “Guess what, world? I am who I am, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Then, there’s also the obvious: I’m brighter than the girl next door. [I like] my pink, my hair is too high, my boobs are too big, my hips come out too much, my heels are too high, my voice is too loud and my laugh is over the top. I laugh from my feet, and the laughter and joy ring through my 40-inch legs, wrap around my 30-inch waist, pass through my double-F boobs and out of my mouth. And you see all my big teeth—and it is what it is. [Both laugh.]
WCT: By the way, I have to congratulate you on being inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame [in Chicago in November]. I was looking at the list of previous inductees: Dick Clark, Abbott & Costello, Yvonne Daniels, Groucho Marx and Wolfman Jack are just a few of them. How does it feel to be included with them?
WW: It feels groundbreaking and it feels fabulous. I feel deserving, though; I’m rolling with the big boys—and the legendary big boys, at that. It feels just great.
After 25 years of being in radio, and to still be young enough to matter—I’m not dead or irrelevant—feels wonderful. This is the real deal.
I have been called legendary before [both laugh] but this is truly LEGENDARY. My [descendants] will be able to walk in and see crazy Miss Wendy.
WCT: Tell me about this recent photo session with Mike Ruiz in which you were Jessica Rabbit.
WW: Oh, my God! One of the great things about having a talk show now is having someone like Mike take me to a fantasy place. (I don’t think I photograph that well, to be honest with you.) I think that was the first big photo shoot that I did in this new life, with the talk show. They gave me as much air-brushing as they did A-list actresses. Oh my God, Andrew—air-brushing is the best! And, Andrew [if you have a big photo shoot], don’t be shy about it; ask them to air-brush you to within an inch of recognizability. But I was really surprised with my gym [results]; my face was tweaked more than anything else—that’s really my body, including my hips and my two fake breast implants.
My glam squad from the TV show made things very, very comfortable. It was fun. He made me feel beautiful.
WCT: He made you feel beautiful? Don’t you know you already are?
WW: Oh, I know. [Interviewer laughs.] I know I’m a beautiful woman, but I feel more beautiful [because] of the things that come from inside. I don’t think of myself as a world-class beauty; I think of myself as a woman who is beautiful once you add all the components. I’m a good mother, a great daughter, a great daughter, a good friend. I have a good career, and I feel as though I’ve been given the gift to make people smile authentically from ear to ear for one hour a day.
I believe my audience thinks of me as beautiful or fun. They don’t thinnk of the outfits I’m wearing; they think, “Oh, God—she’s such a crybaby. Oh, she keeps it so real.” However, [strictly] in terms of looks, Mike made me look beautiful—like a sex symbol! I was smoldering.
Watch The Wendy Williams Show locally at 11 a.m. weekdays on Fox affiliate WFLD.