Ask Wendy: TV Host Wendy Williams Talks Fame, Family and Love06.25.13
To millions of fans, she’s the Jersey girl from next door. Adored talk show host Wendy Williams is as famous for her candor as she is for her fiery personality – and of course her honest take on today’s juiciest headlines. The do-it-all diva is a mother, wife, New York Times best-selling author and now Broadway actress. Seemingly nothing is too much for her, including risqué convos with the biggest celebs. If you watch Wendy, you’ll quickly see she’s is willing to chat about anything and everything. Cotton Candy caught up with the unpredictable, lucid and energetic host to talk about singing in front of an audience on Broadway, how she handles being overwhelmed, and those rare times she doesn’t like giving advice.
Cotton Candy: So, you’re about to perform this summer on Broadway in the hit musical play Chicago as Matron “Mama” Morton. Eight shows a week. Are you nervous about showing off your theatrical and vocal skills to the world?
Um, I’m not nervous. It’s funny. I’m just coming from vocal lessons now and I was telling my vocal coach that I can’t wait until Friday [opening night]. I have something that a lot of people struggle with. And that is complete comfort in front of audience and people. It wasn’t always that way – you know when I was a shy school girl. I did not want to raise my hand and answer a question. I did not want to read out loud in class. I didn’t want to go up to the chalkboard. But now as a grown woman, fear of public speaking is not something I’m burdened with. So no, I’m not nervous. I can’t wait to get out there. (Laughs)
Our editors recently read your new book Ask Wendy. And we must say, your fans can really ask you anything. What would you say is the best advice you’ve ever given?
Wow. What was the best advice I’ve ever given? Um, gees. I don’t think I can pinpoint one particular thing. My advice is cut and dry. You know? For instance, I’m not a dream killer. But what I will say is that if you want to achieve your dream you have to do more than just work at it and pray on it… Everybody needs a plan B and a plan C. I know that’s tough talk. And some people just don’t understand that. But you have to have a plan B and plan C.
Has there ever been a time you’ve given bad advice or advice that you wish you could take back?
Um, no. But I do think that advice changes from person to person. You know, advice is very specific. The same thing that I would tell you regarding a boyfriend who has not introduced you to his family is not the same thing I might tell the next girl. The same thing I tell you about wanting to go on to medical school might not be the same thing I tell the next girl. So, the reason I enjoyed writing Ask Wendy was that ‘Ask Wendy’ was a staple in my radio career; because you know I was on the radio for twenty-five years. Now I do ‘Ask Wendy’ on the TV show, which I adore. However, I do find through radio and TV that oftentimes there’s just not enough time to wrap myself around these problems and really ask a lot of questions. But when I wrote Ask Wendy, I asked Wendy watchers from all around the country to write me letters and send me their problems. Nothing’s off limits, and I promise I won’t laugh at you. (Laughs) And you know what? They did.
But you asked me if I’ve ever given bad advice. Sometimes there just might be pieces missing. I feel that people may ask my advice, but ultimately everyone ends up making a decision on their own, even if you ask my opinion.
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Well obviously, like you said, Ask Wendy is a popular book, radio segment and TV spot. But is there ever a time that you don’t feel like giving advice?
When I am not asked, I do not give advice. And I learned that when my sister and I got into it about seven or eight years ago. I remember giving her my advice when she didn’t ask for it. And it ticked her off. And I remember her saying to me, “If I don’t ask for your opinion then don’t give it.” And that has rung loud and clear in my head from that day forth because that is so true. Don’t butt in and give your opinions if people don’t ask. If people ask you, then be as gutsy with your answer as you feel you can be. Me, I’m pretty gutsy. You know. (Laughs) But I will also offer choices.
The popular phrase “How you doin’?’” has become your calling card. It seems to be what people know you for. What do you want your fans to know that they don’t already know?
Oh my God. I mean you know I have a lot of idiosyncrasies and ticks. And, I don’t like to take camera phone pictures. (Laughs) When people pull out that camera phone I coil up. And if you ask me, “Can I take a picture?” I say no. Unless it’s at a venue or location where it’s a given [that I have to take pictures,] like a book signing or something like that. But if I run into you at the grocery store and you ask to take a picture, nope.
Also, I am very quiet and quite shy. Well, maybe not shy. Just secretive. I prefer in my personal life not to do a lot of talking because for almost thirty years of my life, I have sat in front of a microphone and given way more than most people. So when I walk into a room, you automatically know more about me than I know about you. So, I don’t have a lot to say. What am I going to say? I mean, you already know me.
Clearly you have a full professional life, but you’re pretty lucid about your family as well. Do you ever feel it’s hard being a wife, mom and business woman?
Um, no. Sometimes I go through pockets of life where I feel a bit overwhelmed. Like last week I was sick with my throat and coughing like crazy, but I did not take off from work because I have a staff of hundreds of people depending on me. They count on me at Wendy. Then have the vocal lessons for Broadway, and I have my son Kevin, who’s just 12 years old. And during this time, all I wanted to do was go home and cough. You know what I mean? So, sometimes I do feel it. But, I’m not down for long before I figure out a solution. But I also got a very strict lecture from my husband, who’s also my manager, and who’s also an executive producer on the show. We’ve been together for nineteen years and married for fifteen. And Kevin [my husband] said to me, “Look, you need to learn how to take better care of yourself.” He was not talking to me, but he was talking at me. (Laughs) He told me I’m not good to him, our son or anyone on the staff if I’m sick. But I played it off immediately. He couldn’t hear me coughing the whole time in the shower. It’s a soundproof shower. (Laughs) But he was right. I should’ve taken a day to just sit and relax. But from now on, I’m going to be taking a few of those days. I just love what I do. And I find it rare, as a grown woman, to run into other adults who just adore what they do. And not just tolerate it because it’s a means to an end, but I adore it. I adore radio, and I adore this talk show [Wendy]. And I adore all of the opportunities that talk show has afforded me, like being on Broadway.
Well, you mentioned your son, Kevin, and your husband. How does your son feel about having to share his mom with the world?
Well, you know. Kevin [my son] only has known me as a showgirl. You know, from radio to TV, there’s always been an aspect of my life that he’s had to share with the public. But he loves what I do for a living. And he doesn’t get carried away with it. He’s not a jerk. I think Kevin feeds off of how his father and I treat this whole Wendy Williams thing. And the way that we treat it is it’s a means to an end. Wendy Williams is who I am to the rest of the world. But when I’m around Jersey and to him, I’m Wendy Hunter. That’s my marital name. You know? I’m mom. And he gets that.
We wanted you to speak specifically to the readers of Cotton Candy. What is the best advice you have for them, especially those who want a change in their lives?
Um, be realistic about your goals and take small steps. Take small steps. Versus taking one gigantic step, and if it backfires on you, then you’re ready to let all of your dreams go. Instead take small steps, and do not be scared. And that goes for most things. Perhaps you’re with a rotten man or woman in your life; maybe it’s time to have a conversation. And get it in your mind that you might have to leave that person alone. If you’re at a job you don’t like, I would not advise walking in and telling off your boss. But what I would say is make a list of the careers that interest you and figure out if you have the education and background for that particular career. Oh, and another thing: girlfriends. I know that Cotton Candy is all about women, and I’m about women empowerment too. But a lot of women are too comfortable with their girlfriends, and they feel obligated to stay with them. But when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. And that includes girlfriends. I’m not saying always. I’m just saying, you asked what I would advise to the readers of Cotton Candy if they’re looking to make change in their lives. Well, I would evaluate what is not working and then start making small changes. Give yourself a goal.
Written by Natasha Danielle Smith