The Untold Truth Of Wendy Williams

Whether you love her for her no-holds-barred talk show style or loathe her for the shade she throws at celebs, there's no denying that Wendy Williams has grown into a pop culture phenomenon. In the decades since she started her career, she's careened from radio to television and back again, always with her acerbic wit intact.

The talk show maven, who has hosted "The Wendy Williams Show" since 2008, is the rare TV star who isn't afraid to get down and dirty when she gossips about celebrities. While fellow daytime talk mavens like Barbara Walters and Oprah Winfrey are known for cozying up to A-listers, Williams reveals her true opinions on everyone from Kim Kardashian to her own husband. In July 2021, she taped the final episode of Season 12 of "The Wendy Williams Show" — and it ended up being her last episode ever. 

Of course, there is a lot more to this talk show host than fearless commentary and controversial chatter. Let's get into the untold truth of Wendy Williams.

She's had a big personality since she was a kid

While growing up in Neptune Township, New Jersey, Wendy Williams' parents, Shirley and Tom Williams, noticed from a young age that "there was something different about their middle child," according to the New York Daily News. Her parents declined Wendy's doctor's advice to medicate her hyperactivity. "Instead, they developed a code for me when we went out in public if I started to embarrass them," she told the outlet. "They would say, 'Wendy, TL,' or 'Wendy, TM,' or 'TF!' And from there I would tone it down."

Her ability to be "TL" and "TM," or "too loud" and "too much," served her well in later years when she became a radio DJ. By 2019, she was used to celebrating career highs — and her own ability to talk, talk, and talk some more. "​​I was born to do this," she told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. "I come from a family of good communicators and so I'm a natural."

Wendy Williams won a scholarship for swimming

As any "The Wendy Williams Show" fan knows, the talk show's titular host is no stranger to the deep end. Not only was she a competitive swimmer growing up, but she was good enough to get a swimming scholarship. While attending Ocean Township High School in New Jersey, she caught the eye of college swim recruiters. "I never won any swimming championships but I was good enough to be on the team and swim in the meets and I was good enough to get a partial scholarship to Boston College," she wrote in "Wendy's Got the Heat." However, she ended up going to Northeastern University instead. After Northeastern, she "hightailed it" to the US Virgin Islands, she wrote in an Instagram caption showing her around the time of her graduation. The job paid only $3.75 an hour, she wrote, but she "loved every second of it."

On a 2012 episode of her chat show, Williams teamed up with Olympian Natalie Coughlin for a friendly swim race. After graciously losing to Coughlin, Williams decided to stick around in the pool to practice her backstroke and so on. "It's not so bad for an old girl, is it?" she asked. Nope, not bad at all.

She almost lost out on a gig due to sexism

Wendy Williams came to prominence during the shock-jock era of DJs, when predominantly male radio personalities like Howard Stern said whatever they wanted, as long as it didn' bother the FCC too much. By 2005, Williams had established herself as, to quote New York Magazine, "New York's Shock Jockette." The magazine called her, then a WBLS DJ, "a dominant force in afternoon radio."

But Williams' outsize personality didn't guarantee her career in radio. There was a time when the brass at her first station, WRKS, didn't want her on air during the day because there were already two other women working the waves.

"I got a lot of criticism when I decided to put Wendy on full-time," WRKS program director Vinny Brown told the New York Daily News in 1993. This was partially because "she didn't have that much experience," he said, but also because his peers warned him that he shouldn't put three female DJs on air in a row. Yvonne Mobley and Carol Ford were on before Williams, per the Daily News. Still, he says he "didn't let her gender get in the way" of putting her where he thought she deserved to be.

She struggled with drug use early in her career

Wendy Williams was on her way to a stable career in radio after taking a job in the Virgin Islands and then following her work to Washington, DC, according to New York Magazine. But then, when she got a job at hip hop hotspot Hot 97 in New York City, she started using cocaine.

She told ET she "was a functioning cocaine addict" during her early radio days. "I would report to work on time and I walked in and all of my coworkers," she said, "and including my bosses, would know but instead of firing me, you see, I would grab my headphones and arrogantly walk into the studio and dare them fire me because I was making ratings."

In 2018, she revealed that when she'd kicked cocaine earlier in her life, she actually hadn't gotten any treatment. "​​I don't know how except God was sitting on my shoulder and I just stopped," she once told her audience

If you or anyone you know is struggling 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).

Plastic surgery talk got Wendy Williams in trouble

Nowadays, celebrities' plastic surgery transformations are nothing short of water cooler chat. But there was a time when going under the knife was considered much more taboo, and Wendy Williams was actually punished for talking about her own cosmetic treatments on the radio. 

She felt compelled to revisit the story when fellow New York City DJ Funkmaster Flex posted a video documenting his liposuction on Instagram in December 2020. Williams lamented the fact that when she discussed her own experimentation with plastic surgery on her radio show in the '90s, she got in trouble. "Once upon a time there was a girl named Wendy," she said on her show, per BET, "and in 1994 she got full body liposuction, breast implants, went back to get more liposuction long before all these other girls, trap queens or whatever they are today, talk about being proud 'cause they got liposuction." She added that she was "vilified, hung, suspended without pay, 'Wendy, you can't talk about that.'"

She wouldn't reveal which radio station had suspended her, and this wasn't the end of her plastic surgery drama: her son, Kevin Hunter Jr., learned she'd had breast implants while watching her show, Williams told People. "I just wanted to fit into good clothes," she explained. "I wanted the body that matched my personality. And the body I have now matches my personality."

She dealt with pregnancy loss before welcoming her son

Despite her ribald on-air persona, Wendy Williams has led a low-key suburban lifestyle for decades. She always wanted to be a mother and in 2005, New York Magazine called her "an eager-to-please suburban daughter determined to measure up to her parents' exacting standards." But the road to having a child wasn't easy.

"I fought tooth and nail to be a mother," she told Essence. "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." She noted that after having gone through this twice with her husband, she feels her son Kevin Hunter Jr. was a "hard-won child."

And in the face of marital ups and downs with his father, she remains close with her son. The pair were seen holding hands as they strolled through New York City in December 2021 amid Williams' ongoing health troubles and reports that Hunter Jr. was worried about his mom.

Her husband cheated while she was pregnant

Despite the happy news that Wendy Williams was expecting, her husband Kevin Hunter Sr. — who has also served as her manager — stepped out on their marriage. "The first time I found out [he was cheating] was while I was pregnant with our son on bedrest," Williams said on "The Jess Cagle Show." After Kevin Hunter Jr. was born, Williams' husband played the part of a doting family man. But the cheating didn't stop — and Williams claims that the more successful she got, "the more of a jerk" Hunter Sr. became. Williams said he even went as far as buying properties specifically for extramarital rendezvous. 

In 2019, her husband, who she wed in 1997, fathered a child with another woman, per People. The affair had been rumored for months. "Kevin had a major indiscretion that he will have to deal with for the rest of his life. An indiscretion that I will not deal with," she told the New York Times Magazine. "I never thought that I would be in this position. I'm a very forgiving person, but there's one thing that I could never be a part of, and that one thing happened."

She filed for divorce in 2019 and it was granted in June 2020, according to Us Weekly.

Despite marital issues, Wendy Williams' career soared

Wendy Williams became famous when radio was dominated by male "shock jocks" like Howard Stern. Thanks to her willingness to talk about everything from sexuality to plastic surgery on air, she was often compared to the bawdy bros — but she was also incredibly successful in her own right. The "shock jockette" hit the number-one spot in the coveted 24-to-54-year-old radio demographic, New York Magazine reported in 2005. 

Still, she told The New York Times she didn't appreciate being called "the Black Howard Stern." "There's only one big-breasted woman on this show, and that's me," she said. She soon graduated to being the "one big-breasted woman" on her self-titled TV show, and before long Forbes reported that she was making $15 million per year on endorsement deals and her show. As of February 2022, she's worth an estimated $40 million.

Kevin Hunter Sr., her former husband and manager, seemed to understand the huge impact Williams' career had on his lifestyle in addition to her own. In a statement he released during their divorce, he notably apologized not just to Williams but to her fans, per Page Six.

She's not afraid to snark on or feud with other celebs

When you're trying to succeed in any business, it's best not to burn bridges. That's especially true when you're in the cutthroat entertainment industry. But paradoxically, Wendy Williams has never followed this rule — and it's served her incredibly well.

Williams has beefed with everyone from Will Smith to Ariana Grande. Per E! News, she even once said, "You know Beyoncé can't talk. Beyoncé sounds like she has a fifth-grade education. She can't talk." Eesh. She also once told Whitney Houston her breast implants looked "like two baseballs on a stick," according to The Guardian. Eesh again.

Although it's been good for ratings, her penchant for high-profile mudslinging has landed her in hot water. Take Tupac Shakur, for example, who took on Williams in the song "Why U Turn On Me?", rapping, "I'll put Jenny Craig on your fat a**, you troll." She also told New York Magazine she believed Sean "Diddy" Combs "[had] a hand" in her firing from Hot 97.

Some of her commentary has crossed the line

Crossing swords with fellow celebs is one thing, but Wendy Williams has irked fans when comments went a little too far. After she poked fun at actor Joaquin Phoenix's lip scar in 2020, she caught a lot of flak. She ended up apologizing, per CNN, after athlete Adam Bighill posted about his son's impending cleft palate surgery. Williams responded, "I want to apologize to the cleft community and in Beau's honor, our show is donating to [Operation Smile] and [the American Cleft Palate Association] and encourage our Wendy Watchers to learn more and help support the cleft community." Bighill accepted her apology.

Also in 2020, she received backlash for comments about gay men during a segment on Galentine's Day. "If you're a man and you're clapping, you're not even a part of this," she said during a taping of her show, per ET. "I don't care if you're gay. You don't get a [period] every 28 days. ... I get offended by the idea that we go through something you will never go through." She also added, "And stop wearing our skirts and our heels. ... Lookie here now, gay men, you'll never be the women that we are. No matter how gay."

After fans pointed out that her comments were offensive, she apologized via Twitter. "I didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings. I'm just having a conversation," she said. "I deeply apologize, and I deeply appreciate the support that I get from the community. I will do better."

She donated items to the Smithsonian Institute

In 2014, the Smithsonian Institute asked Wendy Williams to give some items to its television exhibition, according to a post the TV host guest-wrote for the museum's blog. When she asked the Washington, D.C. museum's curator, Dwight Blocker Bower, why they'd selected her, he said, "The Smithsonian serves as the nation's memory. We chose you because you've taken TV and celebrity into a new direction."

Williams donated a purple satin dress, Christian Louboutin shoes, a pink wig stand, a center-parted ombré wig and a bedazzled pink microphone, a battery-powered fan, and a script from her 500th episode. She revealed the items in a segment on "Wendy."

Other items in the Smithsonian Institute's television exhibit include the main character's chair from "All in the Family" and Jerry's puffy shirt from "Seinfeld," according to USA Today, but Williams was the first talk show host ever to contribute artifacts to the museum.

The alleged drama surrounding her shoe line

In case Wendy Williams' conflicts with fellow celebs weren't messy enough, she also supposedly scrapped with a Chinese shoe supplier — and it allegedly sparked a kidnapping.

Williams hoped to branch out with her own apparel line in the 2010s. Things went south in 2012 when she allegedly failed to pay for more than 12,000 pairs of shoes being manufactured in China, according to the New York Daily News. A manager of Williams' holding company was allegedly kidnapped as a result, per the Daily News, and the shoe firm's top brass threatened to sue Williams. Williams apparently never commented on the situation publicly.

Whatever did or did not happen, this was not her final foray into fashion. Williams. did go on to launch a shoe line with HSN in 2015, per People, and enjoyed a few successful seasons selling her wares on the channel. But the collaboration seems to have ended with little fanfare.

Wendy Williams collapsed in the middle of a show

Wendy Williams' usual controversies pale in comparison to the TV host's recent health scares. During a Halloween episode of her talk show in 2017, Williams inexplicably fainted — while dressed up as the Statue of Liberty, no less.

During a segment called "How You Boo-in'," she suddenly started to shake and fell over as members of the show's staff ran over and tried to help her. Fans speculated that something was terribly wrong, but she set everyone straight on the show later that week. "A lot of people thought that was a joke, me fainting on my set," she said. "No, that was not a joke. No, I don't want to fall. I'm a tall woman, and it's a long way down."

She said she'd felt woozy earlier in the show, and implied that she may have been having a hot flash. "I'm a 53-year-old, middle-aged woman going through what middle-aged women go through if you know what I mean," she said. Williams may have brushed it off at the time, but this was the start of a slew of health issues. Still, she celebrated the one-year anniversary of what she called her "faintation" in 2018, according to People, dressing up as the Queen of Hearts to show appreciation for her fans.

Wendy Williams has faced many health issues

Following the fainting incident, Wendy Williams continued to struggle with a number of health issues, including Graves' disease, per People

Williams took a three-week hiatus from her show in 2018 and stayed in a sober house for a while."[Y]ou know I've had a struggle with cocaine in my past," she told her audience before sharing she was under the supervision of a 24-hour sobriety coach. She did not say whether or not she'd relapsed. 

In September 2021, Williams was set to start filming a new season, per Vox, but the shoot date was pushed back several times. Finally, in October, the show began recording with guest hosts like Sherri Shepherd and Leah Remini. In November of that year, Williams struck a hopeful tone, saying in an Instagram statement, ​​"I love spending my mornings with you all and I'm doing everything I can to get back to work, but right now Wendy has to focus on Wendy." In December 2021, the show's brass announced she wouldn't return in January. The following month, Williams confirmed her show was over. Per a statement given to CNN, her rep said, "She understands why this decision was made from a business point of view, and she has been assured by Debmar-Mercury that should her health get to a point where she can host again and should her desire be that she hosts again that she would be back on TV at that time." Her time slot has been given to Shepherd.

If you or anyone you know is struggling 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).