Wendy Williams' Tragic Real-Life Story

The following article includes mentions of drug and alcohol addiction.

Wendy Williams has spent the majority of her career chatting about the latest happenings in the entertainment world and beyond. After garnering attention on her highly successful radio show on WBLS-FM, she made the transition to become one of the most popular television hosts. During her TV heyday, viewers of "The Wendy Williams Show" could digest all of the hot tea she poured in addition to exclusive celebrity interviews from the brave stars who dared to enter her television studio. With all the focus placed on the famous people she loved to rip into, many of her fans were unaware of the sadness that surrounded the talk show maven's private life.

Through the years, she has spilled tidbits of information about those trying times, which included her heartbreaking fertility struggles, a rough childhood, and a possibly tumultuous marriage. While Williams was forced to take an extended hiatus from her show to navigate multiple health issues — including complications from Graves disease and other issues – early 2024 brought news of a more dire diagnosis, rendering it vastly unlikely, if not impossible, that she'll ever return to the job that made her a star. 

Behind the big attitude and the even bigger wigs stands a woman who has been through more trials and tribulations than one could ever imagine. This is the tragic real-life story of Wendy Williams.

She was fat-shamed as a child

At the apex of a showbiz career that saw her being a radio shock jock before becoming one of the queens of daytime television, Williams had the nation eating out of the palm of her hand, with viewers champing at the bit in anticipation of all of her juicy gossip. She was known to light up whenever the cameras turned and built a brand based on her outsized personality that brought her both fame and fortune. But, sadly, she wasn't always living the dream. "Honestly, my life before 21 sucked," she told People, revealing she'd experienced lifelong issues regarding her body image that had dogged her since childhood. Those issues were prevalent both at school and in her home life and led to some extreme childhood behavior involving what she ate. "My first diet was in the first grade!" she explained. "Tuna fish and mustard with yogurt on the side. Weight was a big thing for me to overcome." 

In an interview with ABC News, Williams shared even more grueling details of the difficulties she experienced growing up. "I had a very tortured childhood," she said. "I was tortured, they fat shamed me ... "

It took some time, but Williams finally grew to accept and love her body, and her relationship with her parents — including her mom Shirley — did a complete 180. With the turmoil behind them, her parents are now her biggest fans.

She 'fought tooth and nail to be a mother'

In 1999, Wendy Williams married Kevin Hunter; she filed for divorce in 2019 after two decades of marriage. Early in their marriage, they decided to start a family; however, Williams hit a painful and unexpected roadblock. "There was a hiccup with a couple of miscarriages," she told People. "Life is hard on us women."

While Williams rarely opened up about those distressing moments of her life, she did peel back some of the layers surrounding her fertility struggles during an appearance on a PBS special, "American Masters: The Women's List" (via Essence). "I fought tooth and nail to be a mother," she stated. "I suffered several miscarriages including two at five months. That's when you have the clothes already picked out, the nursery is already painted. They ask you do you want a funeral or do you want the cremation."

Her dreams of becoming a mother finally came true when she conceived their son, Kevin Jr. Despite her desire to have another child, expanding their family even further just wasn't in the cards. "I would've loved to have had more children but I don't want to test my blessing," she said.

Her son turned into a 'stranger' after drug use

Wendy Williams has clearly adored being a mom and never held back from gushing about her son. However, there was a point when that mother-son relationship hit an unfortunate and tragic snag. Interviewed by ET in July 2018, she revealed how his teenage flirtation with drugs had altered his personality. "Our son, three years ago, he's 17 now, he just graduated from high school, he's leaving for college in September, but three years ago he smoked K2."

A teenager experimenting with drugs is nothing new, but K2 — a form of synthetic marijuana — did some devastating damage to Williams' son. She explained that the drug turned him into a stranger. "I was horrified. My son became someone I didn't even know," Williams said, revealing she had noticed the changes in him "immediately."

One can only imagine how helpless Williams must have felt in that situation. But as devastating as it all was for her, Kevin Jr. isn't the only person in Williams' household to have dabbled with drugs.

She was a 'functioning addict'

For 10 years, Wendy Williams struggled with an addiction to "crack cocaine," as she told NPR's Tell Me More. Speaking with ET, Williams defined herself as a "functioning addict" during the height of her substance abuse. Though she claims she made it "to work on time," everyone at her place of employment was well aware of her struggles. "I would grab my headphones and arrogantly walk into the studio and dare them to fire me because I was making ratings," Williams said.

Before quitting drugs at age 30, Williams got her fix the old-school way. "This was before cell phones, waiting, just like a real fiend — waiting on Jerome Avenue at three o'clock in the morning as a single woman with a thriving career here in New York."

With her addiction in the rearview mirror, the TV personality found a way to give back through her The Hunter Foundation's "Be Here" campaign, which helps to combat drug and substance abuse in various communities. Sadly, Williams decided to dissolve the nonprofit organization in 2019. 

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

A scary diagnosis

Viewers who watched the annual Halloween episode of "The Wendy Williams Show" in 2017 were shocked when Williams — costumed as the Statue of Liberty — wobbled around, her eyes rolled back, and she passed out right there on stage. After EMTs arrived and pumped her full of electrolytes to bring down her blood pressure, Williams continued filming the show as if everything were perfectly fine.

She initially claimed she had simply overheated in her costume, but after taking a hiatus from the show to tend to her health, she decided to come clean about her real diagnosis. She told People magazine in March 2018 that she had been diagnosed with Graves' disease and hyperthyroidism 19 years prior. Williams later admitted she had canceled one of her doctor's appointments to attend a business meeting instead, not realizing how much she was endangering her health. She was told in no uncertain terms that she needed to slow down when she was finally examined by her physician. "Yesterday, Wendy's doctor prescribed a necessary three weeks of rest to get her levels and medication in sync," producers of "The Wendy Williams Show" announced in a statement to People.

"I love doing the show, but I love me more. So I'm going to take care of me, so I can be there for them," she told People about her intention to take her ailment seriously.

Vicious rumors about her gender

Back in 2014, Wendy Williams was interviewed by ABC News while promoting her recent foray into standup comedy. Among the topics she planned to address in her comedy act, she revealed, were misconceptions that she's transgender. "People do think I was born a man," she said. Elaborating further, the talkative TV host added, "I get it. I've got a strong face, a strong body, I'm 5'11. I wear wigs. I get it." 

She was also quick to shoot down that particular rumor, insisting it simply wasn't true. She also said that claims she'd transitioned from male to female didn't bother her at all. "Do I get upset with it? No," she said. 

However, she also blasted the rumor as both mean-spirited and hurtful. "I get where that comes from, but in my opinion, there's no worse way to insult a woman than to say she looks like a man ... [but] there's nothing you can call me at this particular point," she added. "I've been dealing with this for decades."

A hurtful discovery during the happiest moment of her life

In 2001, Wendy Williams was a new mother, having given birth to her son with then-husband Kevin Hunter, Kevin Jr., about a month earlier. What was supposed to be the most wonderful time in Williams' life turned into heartbreak in 2001 when she overheard "a late-night telephone call and some clandestine whispering" between Hunter and his mistress.

Williams claimed that she was shocked by her own response to the discovery. "If you told me when I was 25 years old ... that I would stay around for a cheater, I would have been like, 'You's a lie!'" she told VladTV. However, Williams stated that everyone had healed from the situation. She also revealed how his affair strengthened their bond. "It has made our marriage stronger," she said. "No, I'm not back to the girl I was before him because when you get stung like that, you never go back to who you were. Only a fool does, but I love him, and he loves me."

So, to recap: After suffering numerous miscarriages, she was finally able to conceive, only to find out her future ex-husband was cheating on her after giving birth to their miracle baby. That, however, wasn't the only time that infidelity would rear its ugly head during their marriage.

Was there another woman in the picture?

While Wendy Williams made her living by chatting about other people's lives on the "Hot Topics" segment of her daytime talk show, it was nonetheless shocking when she became a hot topic herself, with her own life becoming tabloid fodder. That was the case in September 2017, when the Daily Mail dropped a bombshell in an exposé alleging that Williams' then-husband, Kevin Hunter, had been carrying on a secret, long-term affair with a woman named Sharina Hudson.

The outlet claimed Hunter had been splitting his time between his alleged mistress' suburban house — which he'd reportedly purchased for her — and the home he shared with Williams and their son. He and Hudson were even photographed together following the release of the exclusive report when Hunter picked her up in his car in New York City.

Williams' spokesperson denied the affair. "One plus one does not equal three. This woman is a friend of Mr. Hunter but there is no 'there' there," the statement read, in part. According to BET, aside from that denial, Williams "remained mum" on the topic until December 2018, when her lawyers did the talking for her by issuing the Daily Mail a cease and desist order, demanding that the Mail print a retraction. While that seemed to tamp down reports of trouble in her marriage, that was far from the end of it ...

Was her husband ruining her career?

According to a complaint filed in 2008 and reported by TMZ, a talent broker during Wendy Williams' radio days launched a sexual harassment lawsuit claiming that Williams' then-husband, Kevin Hunter, sexually harassed her and that Williams did nothing to stop his alleged behavior. The woman also claimed that not only did Hunter charge at her at one point, but he also allegedly assaulted Williams by "choking her" and "pinning her" against the wall. Williams and Hunter denied those claims; the lawsuit was reportedly laid to rest when an out-of-court settlement was reached.

And that wasn't the first time Hunter was at the center of controversy. Williams' former sidekick, "The Breakfast Club" co-host Charlamagne Tha God, told "Watch What Happens Live" host Andy Cohen that Hunter is what came between him and Williams professionally and that Hunter was also usually "the one common denominator" in any beef Williams had with colleagues. In a shocking twist, Cohen agreed, "I think that might be the one thing that happened with she and I, too."

The Daily News also reported insider rumors that Hunter — who also served as an executive producer of "The Wendy Williams Show" — was a menace behind the scenes. "Wendy is smart. No one can understand why she does not tell him to f*** off," said the source. "He is making everyone's lives miserable and is causing problems on an otherwise great show."

A health setback forced a lengthy hiatus

Wendy Williams canceled the Dec. 17, 2018, taping of her eponymous talk show. At a taping the following day, she wore a sling on her right arm, which she kept hidden underneath a hot pink sweater. "I have a hair fracture on my right shoulder. I did it on Sunday — by Monday morning my shoulder was on fire," the talk show maven told viewers, per Page Six.

She soldiered on for a few more tapings before the show went on its pre-scheduled hiatus for the holidays. When it was time to return to work, Williams was a no-show. The talk show's now-vanished Instagram account stated the former radio host was still "on the mend" and would return to the program on Jan. 14, 2019. However, when that date finally rolled around, Williams pushed back her return again, this time promising to show up on Jan. 21. And then, a few days before that scheduled return, another note popped up on the show's Instagram page, stating she was delaying her return for a third time. That statement revealed she had "experienced complications regarding her Graves' Disease that will require treatment." That statement, obtained by Detroit News, also indicated that Williams would need "significant time spent in the hospital." However, she raised eyebrows when she was spotted out and about at a CVS in Florida on Jan. 29, 2019.

Did Hunter's alleged mistress have his baby?

A shocking rumor about Wendy Williams' personal life cropped up in March 2019, when Page Six reported that Kevin Hunter's alleged mistress, massage therapist Sharina Hudson, gave birth to his child. "Sharina gave birth to the baby at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philly," a source alleged to the outlet. "Apparently, they chose this location because they were worried that if she gave birth in New York, it would be leaked to the press."

The accusation was terrible on its face, but it was especially upsetting when considering that Williams was living in a sober house at the time, having reportedly relapsed in her ongoing struggle with substance abuse. "This is a crazy situation, Wendy is in a halfway house fighting for her sobriety, while her husband is at the side of his mistress who is giving birth to a baby," another source added.

At the time, neither Hunter nor Hudson addressed the baby rumor. However, in October 2021, The U.S. Sun reported that Hunter and Hudson had gotten engaged, with Hudson sporting an $80,000 diamond ring. The following March, Hunter shared a video on Instagram Live, apparently confessing to everything. "For the people who are dwelling on the fact that I had a baby ... a beautiful daughter ... with a beautiful person ... just know that at the end of the day ... I take accountability for all my actions as a man," he said, as reported by Radar.

Wait, what about poison?

Arguably, the most upsetting and bizarre allegation to surface about Wendy Williams' life? Look no further than the rumor that Williams' ex-husband, Kevin Hunter, poisoned her. 

The drama started in January 2019, reported TMZ, when someone claiming to work for Williams' production company called the police to report that Hunter was allegedly poisoning the talk show host. When police arrived at the now exes' home, Hunter was reportedly hesitant to let them in to investigate due to a health issue Williams was suffering from at the time. That problem, as the police report noted, was Williams' fractured shoulder.

Once inside the house, officers discovered Williams lying "in bed 'with the blanket covering from neck to toe.'" Per the report, Hunter didn't leave the room when officers asked to talk to Williams alone, citing his concern for the talk show host's injury. Officers then asked Williams about the poisoning allegation, which she brushed off by saying, "Well, I'm very popular." When pressed about the issue, she "became tearful" but still denied the claim.

The real reason her friendship with Charlamagne tha God suffered

Once upon a time, "Breakfast Club" star Charlamagne tha God (real name Lenard McKelvey) formed a strong friendship with Wendy Williams during his time working on her now-defunct WBLS-FM radio show. Translation: The two have history. Sadly, their relationship fell apart around 2008, when Charlamagne was axed from Williams' show. The radio star actually blamed Williams' then-husband, Kevin Hunter, who still happened to be his manager at the time, for the fallout. In his 2017 memoir "Black Privilege" (via BET), Charlamagne wrote, "[Hunter would] yell at and often threaten people ... But it wasn't how I wanted to do business."

Despite Charlamagne's issues with Hunter, he never felt anger towards Williams. And he blamed their longtime feud (the pair didn't speak for years) on Hunter's alleged affair with Sharina Hudson, to whom he introduced Hunter in a professional context. "Kevin got upset because he thought Sharina liked one of my homeboys and he thought that I was hooking Sharina up [with other men]," he told Page Six in 2009. The radio star also accused Hunter of forcing Williams to cut off contact with him, a claim he touched on again after Williams filed for divorce in April 2019, explaining: "Kevin told her some other reason as to why he stopped dealing with me so it's just good to clear the air."

Charlamagne called Williams to hash things out, reportedly getting their relationship back on track.

Her show was cancelled, replaced with a new host

In the spring of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down production of Wendy Williams' daytime talk show. Williams shot segments in her home until May 2020, when she went on a medical hiatus due to her Graves disease. The announced premiere of the 2021 season was delayed when she contracted COVID; the season finally kicked off in October, but Williams remained on hiatus. Instead, a series of guest hosts filled in. 

In February 2022, Variety reported Williams would not be returning; meanwhile, one of those guest hosts — Sherri Shepherd — was in discussions to host her own daytime chatfest. Two weeks later, "The Wendy Williams Show" was officially canceled; at the same time, the show's producer, Debmar-Mercury, confirmed it was moving ahead with "Sherri" to replace Williams' show in syndication. "Since Wendy is still not available to host the show as she continues on her road to recovery, we believe it is best ... to start making this transition now," Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein said in a statement to AP.

Williams' rep, Howard Bragman, issued a statement on her behalf. "It's been a challenging time for Wendy as she deals with her health issues," he said in a statement obtained by People, insisting Williams was cool with the decision, given the uncertainty over her health. "She, more than anyone, understands the reality of syndicated television — you can't go to the marketplace and sell a show that's the 'Maybe Wendy Show,'" he added.

Confusion about her show's cancellation hinted at deeper problems

While the situation surrounding the cancellation of Wendy Williams' namesake talk show and its replacement by "Sherri" appeared to be cut-and-dried, that was apparently not the case when it came to Williams' understanding of what had taken place. In April 2022 — two months after the cancellation announcement — Debmar-Mercury co-presidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein revealed that Williams had been confused about the details of her show ending and "Sherri" beginning. 

"She said, 'Well, what's going to air at 10 o'clock?' I told her, 'Sherri's going to air at 10 o'clock.' 'So, can I go on at 11?'" Bernstein told The Hollywood Reporter, recalling several subsequent conversations that were essentially rehashing what had already been discussed. According to Bernstein and Marcus, each time they spoke with Williams, it appeared as if that were the first time she was learning the news.

Williams' niece, Alex Finnie, confirmed that account, telling CNN that she finally explained the situation as bluntly as she could. "I got serious, and I said, 'I want to really explain something to you so that you can get this. There's no more 'Wendy Williams Show.'" They decided to cancel it ... this curtain has come down. Are you aware?'" Finnie recalled telling Williams. "I remember her saying, 'What are you talking about? Of course, I have the show.'" According to Finnie, further explanation was required before she felt that Williams had grasped that her show was over.

Her bank accounts were frozen amid claims of financial exploitation

Around the same time that news of her daytime talk show's cancellation emerged, so did an even more disturbing report about Wendy Williams. As People reported, Williams had taken legal action against her bank, Wells Fargo, claiming that her accounts had been frozen and she was unable to access millions of dollars. Williams' court filings claimed that she was being denied access to her accounts due to her former financial adviser, Lori Schiller, informing the bank that Williams "was of unsound mind."

The bank responded, and its court filings alleged that Williams' accounts were frozen because "Wells Fargo has strong reason to believe that [Williams] is the victim of undue influence and financial exploitation," noting that Williams' financial adviser had "recently witnessed telltale signs of exploitation" involving the ailing talk show host. Williams fired back in a statement that her attorney, LaShawn Thomas, issued to Variety. "Wendy wants the world to know that she strenuously denies all allegations about her mental health and well-being," said Thomas.

As Variety reported, Williams issued a sworn affidavit in which she claimed she'd already started defaulting on financial obligations because of her inability to access her money. Meanwhile, Thomas characterized Schiller as a disgruntled ex-employee. "It saddens Wendy that Wells Fargo has chosen to believe the allegations of a former employee who is upset because she no longer has direct and unfettered access to Wendy's financial affairs," the lawyer added.

She was placed under financial guardianship

In March 2022, not long after the news broke that her accounts had been frozen, Wendy Williams took to Instagram to share a message. In a video she posted, she said that it had all started when she began asking questions about her finances and wasn't receiving satisfactory answers from her then-financial adviser, Lori Schiller. "I want my money. This is not fair," Williams declared, also alleging that her ex-manager, Bernie Young, used her American Express card to pay for the services of a high-powered lawyer — to file a petition against her!

In May 2022, a New York Supreme Court judge decreed that a guardian be appointed to oversee Williams' finances — at least on an interim basis until her legal battle against Wells Fargo had been resolved. "Please be advised that Wendy is not in agreement with the appointment of a financial guardian by the court," Thomas responded in a statement to Deadline. "Wendy has been very clear that she does not want a financial guardian to tell her what she can and cannot do with her money."

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Thomas emphasized that Williams not only opposed the judge's decision but was prepared to fight it out in court. "If it's the court's intention to have [a guardian] appointed over her affairs for the long haul, she definitely isn't going to accept that," Thomas added. As of February 2024, that guardianship remained in place.

Her sad decline was filmed for a Lifetime documentary

In early February of 2024, the Lifetime network dropped a trailer for "Where is Wendy Williams?" The two-part documentary, slated to debut later that month, was executive produced by Wendy Williams herself and purported to document what her life had been like since she stepped away from her talk show due to her failing health. "Opening the doors to her private life like never before, cameras chronicled her comeback journey to reclaim her life and legacy despite facing health issues and personal turbulence," Lifetime said in a press release, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. "With unparalleled access granted by Wendy to film with her and her family for nearly two years, what was captured was not what anyone expected."

In the trailer, Williams' son, Kevin Hunter Jr., weighed in on his mother's condition. "My mom has done a great job making it seem that everything is okay always, but in reality, there's something wrong going on," he stated. His comments were immediately followed by footage of Williams, who was asked by someone off-camera if she'd seen a neurologist. "To find out if I'm crazy?" she scoffed in response.

Another scene featured someone confronting her with a nearly empty bottle of liquor, asking, "Did you drink this all today?" Then, an off-screen voice is heard saying, "Anybody could look at her and tell this is not just alcohol — there's something more going on."

Wendy Williams' family confirmed she'd entered a treatment facility because of her cognitive decline

Shortly before the debut of "Where is Wendy Williams?" her family confirmed some of the worst fears hinted at within the trailer for the documentary, which was filmed between 2022 and 2023. Speaking with People, Williams' sister, Wanda Finnie, and niece, Alex Finnie, revealed that Williams was currently a patient in an unnamed facility where she was being treated for cognitive issues — and where she'd been for the past 10 months.

"She is, from what I understand, in a wellness, healing type of environment," said Wanda, who explained that, because of the guardianship, she was unable to contact her sister but that Williams was permitted to reach out and contact family members. "And she is in a healing place emotionally," she added, insisting that Williams' condition had improved measurably since she was filmed for the doc. "She's not the person that you see in this film," Wanda declared.

Acknowledging that keeping in touch with Williams had been sporadic during her time in the facility, Wanda shared that although she wasn't clued into the exact details of her sister's treatment, the Williams they last spoke to was "a person who is remarkably different than what we see in that documentary." Alex echoed this sentiment, noting, "She sounds really great."

She was diagnosed with dementia and aphasia

On Feb. 22, 2024, Wendy Williams ended the speculation about the unspecified cognitive issues for which she was reportedly being treated, issuing a press release about her condition. According to that release, Williams had undergone extensive medical testing, which revealed a diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia. "Aphasia, a condition affecting language and communication abilities, and frontotemporal dementia, a progressive disorder impacting behavior and cognitive functions, have already presented significant hurdles in Wendy's life," the release stated.

The release also pointed out that, while these conditions were progressive, "Wendy is still able to do many things for herself. Most importantly she maintains her trademark sense of humor and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed."

Following the announcement, Williams sent a statement to Today to share her gratitude for the supportive response she'd received since going public with her diagnosis. "Let me say, wow! Your response has been overwhelming," the statement read. "The messages shared with me have touched me, reminding me of the power of unity and the need for compassion," she added while sharing her hope that others with conditions similar to hers could "benefit from my story."

Wendy Williams' guardian sued to seemingly prevent Lifetime airing 'exploitive' documentary

Shortly before "Where is Wendy Williams?" was scheduled to make its debut on Lifetime, some 11th-hour legal wrangling seemingly attempted to prevent it from airing at all. As TMZ reported, Sabrina Morrissey — who claimed to be acting as Wendy Williams' temporary guardian — launched a lawsuit targeting A&E Television Networks, Lifetime's parent company. That suit, TMZ pointed out, had been sealed, meaning that details could not be made public.

However, TMZ assumed that because Morrissey's filing sought a temporary restraining order, she was attempting to prevent the documentary from airing. "The new lawsuit appears to be filed as an attempt to prohibit the airing of the upcoming documentary 'Where Is Wendy Williams?'" a source (described as having inside knowledge about the case) told People. A court date was set for Feb. 27 — two days after the second installment of the two-part documentary was scheduled to air. 

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter the day before the premiere date, Kannie Yu LaPack, Lifetime's executive vice-president of publicity, public affairs, and social media, confirmed that the documentary "will air this weekend as planned."