ASK AN EXPERT: Wendy Williams
Media personality and bestselling author Wendy Williams, aka “Queen of All Media,” hosts The Wendy Williams Show. With more than 2 decades of experience under her stylish belt, the talented Ms. Williams talked with Glitter Magazine about self confidence, the entertainment industry, and what it takes to be successful. Read this exclusive interview to get this amazing expert’s take on life in the media!
GLITTER: Your talk show has a very real and down to earth charm. When did you know you had the gift of gab?
WENDY: Forever, there are certain things I personally believe that you are either born with it or you’re not. One of those things is gift for gab. My mom and dad have been on the talk show a lot and anyone who has ever seen them sees exactly where I get it from. My sister is a lawyer and my younger brother is a school teacher. We all have that gift for gab. I grew up at a time when TV’s were not everywhere and in every room of the house. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when there was such a thing as dinner at 5 o’clock. Come with your conversation and there’s no TV.
GLITTER: You are “the friend in everyone’s head” right now. Did you have the same effect on people as a teen?
WENDY: No, as a teen, I had never been to a prom. I wasn’t an ugly girl but I was definitely awkward. I was 5 foot 11, physically awkward, and emotionally not ready to speak my mind. Because when you are a teenager, your entire existence depends on being popular and/or getting great grades. My grades weren’t great. I was a solid C student. Every once in a while I would get below that and very rarely I would go above that. And I was just really unsure of academia but I knew once I graduated from college, which my parents always instilled in us that I owe them that 4 years, that my life was free to live on my own and I would speak about all the things that I kind of had been holding in socially. I would never hold back at home or in front of my parents’ friends, but certainly I didn’t have all the boyfriends and I wasn’t the head cheerleader and all of that. So no, I was not always so outspoken. But in my mind, I always knew I would be. All I knew was that I wanted to get out of school where I knew the playing field was even! No more grades.
GLITTER: What was it like for you growing up as a teen in NJ? Was it a typical childhood? Did you always have stars in your eyes?
WENDY: Yes! You understand what’s it like just being tall alone is extremely awkward for girls. I spent a lot of time leaning on one hip and wearing flats and curling my toes up. I was awkward. Our son Kevin is 11 years old. One piece of advice that I can give a parent of a tween is to listen to them closely when they say what they want to be when they grow up. Because I would say about 10% of tweens actually stay on that path to try and make that dream come true. When I was a tween, being socially awkward in Ocean Township NJ, growing up at the Jersey Shore, you know that’s part of the New York metropolitan area. I was watching the news and listening to the radio and I knew I wanted to be a newscaster or I wanted to be a radio personality. And I told my parents that all along and I used to close the door and fantasize and practice in the mirror and listen to the radio and watch the news and some of my favorite news heroes (TP Williams and Rick Miles and Chuck Scarborough, he was on at that time and Sue Simmons, I grew up on these people). I have a lot of respect for teens and tweens in terms of when they say that they want to be something. Not all of them are going to be that. But there is a certain cluster that you should listen to closely and help their dreams.
GLITTER: What has motivated you through the years and kept your career going?
WENDY: I don’t have a trust fund! (laughing) My parents were public school teachers and my father for some time was a college professor. They were educators and, as we all know, educators are under paid and over worked. They put every dime and every bit into educating my big sister, me, and little brother. They bought us the best clothes; they gave us all the tools that we needed whether it was shuttling us back and forth to girls scouts, swim team and summer camp, and even things they couldn’t afford like sending me to Europe (you know when the French class went), just all kinds of wonderful things. And I instinctually knew that their four years of college money was the last stuff they had. They didn’t have one last dime for me to screw up and do 5 years instead of 4. I also knew that if I was going to do anything after graduation that it wouldn’t be something that I was going to be able to ask them for. And they never said this to me because I still to this day believe that they would have cut off 9 fingers and 9 toes for either my sister or brother. I always felt bad for them, because I always questioned would I take it to the wall for my own child or would I have pushed them out there to work at 16. I wasn’t working at 16, 17 or 18. I was being spoiled by parents that couldn’t even afford to spoil me. I didn’t realize that until I was an adult. So my motivation is: I don’t have a trust fund. I don’t have rich in-laws and I didn’t marry rich.
GLITTER: You were inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame 2009—one of only a handful of women with that honor, how did that change your life?
WENDY: Well career wise, it didn’t change it at all. Radio is one of the many professions that when you get the highest honor, it’s not going to change your salary. It’s just a badge of honor. When I was inducted into the national Radio Hall of Fame, the ceremony was in November. I had left radio the August before to focus on TV. So it hasn’t changed my life outwardly at all, but inwardly, I beam with pride. I have the award, here in our house, prominently displayed. It was a very big deal for my parents, my siblings, my husband, and my son, were able to come to the ceremony in Chicago, It’s an even bigger deal that I know when I pass on that there is one place that my son can go and see that his mom has made her mark,
GLITTER: Outside of your Radio Hall of Fame honor, what has been one of your favorite moments in your career?
WENDY: Yeah, when I was on bed rest, pregnant with little Kev [her son]. And I lived with my husband in south Jersey and he was working with me at that particular time for that 4 years out of my radio career (you know my radio career spans over 20 years) and they had the equipment installed. I would sit on my booty in the morning and I would ease down the steps at 5:30 and I would hit the switch and I would be watching TV on mute and talking to my radio listeners. There are so many memorable times, but that was a big one because when Kevin was born he was literally used to hearing my voice every single morning, I would talk in the microphone and he would just be growing and then finally at 8 months I would feel him kicking. I took my time off to deliver him, but then I would switch that microphone on and he would be laying there in the basinet, or I would be resting. That was a transition from me living as a career girl to me as a working woman.
GLITTER: Who was your most anticipated celebrity interview and why?
WENDY: I don’t have one of those. My radio career seemed like it flashed by so fast. I am still so excited to be on television and grateful that I could interview the lawn man and the roofer. When I first started the show I kind of had a little wish list that lasted for all of 5 minutes, before I realized that I need to start wishing for another season on TV, because the guests are not going to make the show pop. It all comes down to me and the staff that makes me hot, and you know in the show everybody from my set designers to my secretary, producers, you know, every last person in the Wendy building helps to make me look good. Most of all I counsel myself and after that whether I interview Michelle Obama or Lady Gaga it all comes down to me, and me and the staff can produce, so I don’t have a favorite.
GLITTER: You’ve done Radio, TV, Magazines, Film, & Books, and now you have branched out to an accessory line for QVC. How does it feel to move in this direction with your brand? Will you be designing apparel as well?
WENDY: It feels wonderful. I mean my accessory line is called Adorn because being a woman whose size has fluctuated I find that clothes fail you all the time: your waist is too big; it’s too small; you generationally outgrow things. But your accessories never fail you; they always fit and they always looks great. The line is called Adorn and that’s where I wanted to start out. Branding myself , I have handbags, readers, sunglasses, this fabulous little case that holds readers and glasses both in one, scarves, necklaces, belts, bracelets, earrings, shoes which are separate from QVC and, yes, my line does go up to a 12! I include everything from work appropriate shoes to 5 inch heels with crystals, or a pair of sensible flats. I will be back on the Q in May in time for Mother’s Day. I love my Adorn line and I have a great team of designers. I am very hands on with what I want my girls to have. I would never want to do anything where I just threw my name on something and collected a buck. You know there are a lot of celebrities that do things like that, but for me, I think one of the reasons my career has been so long and so enduring is because somewhere in all of the madness people seem to sense my authenticity. (laughing)
GLITTER: With your show being renewed through 2014, what else can we look forward to from you in the next few years?
WENDY: Well, I would love to continue my accessory line. My husband and I started a production company and we would like to do movies. I would love to produce a Lifetime or Oxygen movie. My character is a New York City girl on top of her game in radio, she goes through her ups and downs, not a nice woman but really fun to write about. (laughing) And my autobiography, I would like to produce [it] into a movie. I would like to get into the production game.
GLITTER: You have paved a long path in the entertainment industry with 23 years in Radio and now a syndicated show airing in 52 countries. What advice can you give to our young readers about going for what you want in life?
WENDY: Well, I don’t believe it’s true that you can be anything you want to be if you are not willing to put in the work. A lot of people believe you can be anything you want to be. No, you can’t, not if you don’t put in the work. You have to put in your homework; you have to put in your research. It’s more than just believing in yourself. I know that young people rely so much on their social circles and validation and things like that. But, for me, one of the best things that could have happened to me is being a bit of a social outcast; it left me time to sit by myself in my room and research. Back in the day, there was no computer but we did have encyclopedias and books and more books and I used to learn and plot my future. It sounds so stupid and cliché, but sticks and stones break bones but don’t let the names hurt you. Bullying is a terrible thing. I was bullied in my own way, because I was a standout black, standout tall, standout overweight, but those things have made me the woman I am today, and I have let go of the anger. And those stories I pass on to my son. Without being who I was then I could never be who I am now, I am over it and I am grateful.