Radio Diva Wendy Williams Adds Talk Show Host To Her Resumé

Talking to Wendy Williams, even via telephone, is a lot like sitting down your chattiest best friend. There’s an openness about her that is astonishing, and I got a feeling that a half-hour on Wendy’s couch would be more therapeutic than a year of weekly of visits to a professional therapist. This is one woman who has her act together and is not afraid to tell others how to do the same with theirs.

Williams began her career as a radio DJ. As her rabid fan base grew, her radio show was syndicated. Soon, she began making guest appearances on television. Last year, the 5-foot-11-inch Williams — with her 4-inch heels, big wigs and bigger attitude — got a trial run as a TV talk show host. She did well (many of her best interviews are still hits on YouTube) and The Wendy Williams Show begins airing daily July 13 on BET and other networks. And yes, as this interview proves, she is ready to compete on daytime TV and on radio and wherever fate takes her.

You’ve called yourself “a woman from Jersey who has been given an opportunity,” but it seems more like you put opportunity in a chokehold and refused to let go. To what do you attribute your success in such a competitive field?

Wendy Williams: I’ve never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so to speak. I set out to be in radio. I majored in mass communication in college and this radio thing has just evolved into getting a lot of notice and a television show. … With regards to TV, I had a few lucky breaks and I’ve taken advantage of every situation to the best that I can. It is really competitive, and I don’t know what sets me apart from the rest, other than that I am just Wendy from New Jersey. I’m just Wendy, and people have found so far that’s just good enough and, for me, it’s great.

I was struck by your early life as the chunky younger sister of a perfect daughter. Some kids would wilt under this. What made you such a fighter?

Some people look at adversity and they let it beat them down and become very defeated by the setbacks in life. For me, I guess my basic personality is “take the information in, process it, get up, and keep moving on.” There’s no time in life to sit down and let things bat you down because life moves on without you.

You have to keep moving because for every one person who is doing something great, there are millions who would love to be in that position. Right now this is what I call “my time” in terms of my career, and even my family life. Our son is 8 and just delightful. I’ve never felt physically or mentally better in my life.

Physically speaking, I did grow up as a chunky middle child. I’m still a big girl, but I own it. I own it. I am on a constant diet like every other 44-year-old woman in America. But I feel like I look the best I ever have and I feel confident. Mentally speaking, I am out of my 20s and the wonder years of the 30s. This is just a great time for me all around so I am just loving life.

James Denton shares a laugh with Wendy Williams on The Wendy Williams Show

There is a lot of energy in your show, but what else are you going to be bringing to the screen that, say, Ellen and Oprah aren’t?

I hate to sound clichéd, but I am bringing Wendy. I’m not Ellen or Oprah. I am a woman of a certain style and flair. Ellen and Oprah can interview Demi Moore but I can interview Demi and I will find something fresh and from a new perspective. We’re in town with Regis and Kelly and David Letterman and I love them all, but I’m different and I always have been different. I’m bringing that to TV. I laugh at myself, I laugh with myself and I guess Ellen and Oprah do that also except I probably do it more often and my laugh might be harder. It comes from my size 11 feet all the way out of my gaping mouth with my big white teeth. I laugh.

I’m also doing advice. Oprah does advice in an indirect way with her various guests. Me, I’ve built up enough of a following with my radio career that women and men, and children, believe it or not, have been coming to me for advice. A girl will call, “Miss Wendy, how do I talk to my mom about sex?” And I’ll give advice to her about that. Or the 22-year-old scared to graduate from college and face life will call me up about that. And my peer group, the 30-and 40-year-old women, call me up about contraception, or “I don’t want to have kids and he wants to have kids”, or “my best friend and I don’t get along any more.” And I will break it down and tell a woman that it is time to cut this friendship. Friendships are seasonal and that’s the way it is, in my opinion. The same person you were best friends with than you were 22 you might not have much in common with when you are 42. I’m big for “end it and move on. Life is too short.”

What did you learn while doing the episodes that aired last year and led to this permanent talk show?

I learned a couple of things about myself. First of all, I requested that we have no monitors in the studio where I could look over and see myself. For live TV, that’s pretty brave, especially for us women. We are always trying to tweak or to sit up straighter or hold our stomachs in. But when I had a strip of shows on VH1, the monitor would throw me off and I would forget my train of thought in mid-sentence which is horribly rude to guests. For my sneak peak last summer, I said no monitors. I was incredibly surprised at myself at how comfortable I was getting up, sitting down, moving around, throwing my arms in the air even though they are loose underneath like many women.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to young women who watch your show?

Use your 20s to experiment with everything — with careers, with young men, with young women (I’m not judging), and to fail. Don’t be afraid of failure because you will never have that time back. I feel like, for women, if what they intend to do is settle down and have a career and family, they will never get the freedom of their 20s back, never ever ever!

Photo Credit: Anders Krusberg/The Wendy Williams Show