Powerhouse: TV V80
Powerhouse: TV V80
Photography: Jason Kim
Title of production: The Wendy Williams Show (Talk WW Production Inc.)
How long have you been in the business?
WENDY WILLIAMS I’ve been in TV approximately seven years. For a few years during my radio show I had a special on VH1, and now The Wendy Williams Show is in our fourth season. Before, I was involved with radio for 23 years.
How many episodes have you done?
WW Around 515. We celebrated our 500th show in May.
Who have been some of your favorite guests?
WW It’s all been a wonderland for me. A woman from New Jersey, I never thought I would have a talk show! I’ve loved everyone from Elmo and Big Bird to Simon Cowell, Dianne Carroll, Patti LaBelle, Paris Hilton…I enjoy it every day! We’ve had performances from Justin Bieber and Nas, couch talk with Whoopi Goldberg and Kelly Ripa (my daytime girlfriends), Piers Morgan, Larry King, James Earl Jones…from reality stars to politicians, we have an eclectic mix of guests.
What makes you a great host?
WW All my life I’ve been a conduit for various people. Growing up I always had an unexpected friendship circle. People realize when they come on our show that my audience and my cohosts are tastemakers, they are the ones buying products.
What do you love most about the medium of television?
WW I love that I don’t have to evoke my emotions through my voice. In radio, inflection and pronunciation are so important, because radio is a theater of the mind. Now I’m able to wave my hands like a true Jersey girl! I can awkwardly adjust my clothes, pull at my hair, and many times there are situations on our show where it may be too much for words and I just have to look at the camera and dim my eyes or purse my lips and people get it.
Whose opinions do you trust most when it comes to booking guests and coming up with ideas for the show?
WW My executive producers David Perler and Kevin Hunter. Kevin is also my manager and my husband. We’ve been married for 14 years. David I trust as well. David knows talk in and out, he’s been on the Rosie circuit, the George Lopez circuit, he’s been around. He’s also smart and incisive, and I need that.
What goes into a single episode? Take us from conception to airtime.
WW A single episode is shot live out of New York at 10 am every weekday morning. One episode is 44 minutes of programming, the other 16 is commercials. Every day I have a meeting with all my producers, from hot topics to segment producers, if there’s a fashion show there’s a producer for that also, and everyday we have a phone conference in the afternoons. They chock me full of DVDs and TV schedules, because I have my favorites and things that I watch to prepare for the show. My staff works tirelessly everyday, until six at night, and then we are constantly back and forth on the telephone. My cell phone is always charged up and ready to have conversations. I’ve done things like pull down a chair from the lawn department at Target or in Home Depot and sit down and literally have a full-blown conversation in the middle of a store!
What are the most rewarding aspects of your job, and what are the most difficult?
WW My son is 12, he’s part of a new generation. The most rewarding is when he is proud, and he says, “Mommy you were good for our people.” I think, Oh my gosh, thank you! My parents will call me up—they get the show in Miami. They’ll say, “Wendy, we loved today’s show. We had no idea who Amanda Bynes was, and WOW. Thank you for breaking it down.” When I’m out in public I can’t hide, I’m 5' 11". People come up and say we love your show, and they are of all ages, colors, religious backgrounds, and beliefs. That right there is the holy grail. The most difficult is trying to make everyone happy while trying to make me happy. I don’t have time! I get it, you want a hug, you feel like you know me. But honestly, I gotta go! It’s more difficult being a real person who happens to be on TV than being a celebrity known for being a movie star and playing a character.
Was there anyone who nurtured you in the beginning?
WW Me. I was born into a working-class family in New Jersey, and my mom and dad dreamed big within the confines of what they knew. They would have loved me to become a doctor, a lawyer, or a professor on the college level. They didn’t know the bigger dream, because that’s not what the culture was. I wanted to be in media, but there were no relatives or family friends, there was nothing. I would fantasize and apply for jobs, but it was a fantasy. My parents’ sacrifice for me is my biggest inspiration—initially I wanted to pay my parents back, in terms of progress and success.
Do you have any role models within the industry who you’ve looked up to?
WW There is no one person, but there are bits and pieces of people that I really do love. Oprah is obviously the queen. She really laid down a body of work that will never be overlooked. I also have to interject Diane Carroll, who was the first black woman to lead a dramedy on TV. I can only imagine the years of interesting chat she must have heard to get her career to where it was. I also admire Goldie Hawn. There is something to be said for not getting married and keeping it respectful. We are both 20 years younger in spirit than we are in age, and I love that about her! She’s still sexy!
What’s your personal motto?
WW It is what it is. When it all comes down to it, I love my life. It’s so random and weird.