Recently inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, Williams expanded her already impressive empire to the world of television on July 13, 2009 after a successful six-week preview in the summer of 2008. The Wendy Williams Show has since been renewed through 2012 having proven the daytime diversion from coast to coast.
Williams is a vocal advocate for LGBT equality both on and off the air and makes a point to include local gay media when doing press. On March 29, 2010 Vital VOICE was invited to sit down with Williams prior to her early morning interview with the St. Louis Fox affiliate. In a wide-ranging exclusive, the glam-gabber chats about her hit show, her connections to the LGBT community—and being down with the SWISH.
Colin Murphy: Congratulations on the success of your show—do you feel you are hitting your stride—getting used to the format?
Wendy Williams: Well, I’m used to it—I’m used to the execution of the show and the lifestyle that comes with it—the waking up, going to bed—you know, things like that. But I don’t feel so comfortable yet that all I need to do is just stay in New York. I like coming out on the road, I like being here and how you doin’ in America—I love it. I love it!
CM: Obviously you have a large and loyal gay fan base. When did you first become aware of LGBT issues—was it early in life?
WW: It was early—in school. Even in grade school. You know, different people—we know each other. I’m different because I’m tall, because I was one of only four blacks in my graduating class, because I was fluffy—and still am. So that made me different and that made me an outcast—very much an outcast. We recognize one another, we different people. I recognized gay boys in first grade, third grade, fifth grade. You know, the boys who would rather play jacks than run around the field and stuff, and we just kind of gravitated towards one another.
And then in college—my best friend in college was gay. And he used to take care of me and we’d borrow clothes and we’d go to clubs together and I would just feel so free around him. There was no one to hit on—just conversation. Out in the world, we know each other now, we different people; even now as adults—the gay men and the women who love them—that would be me.
CM: The Wendy Williams Show isn’t political—it’s fun—but you don’t shy away from talking about LGBT issues. How important do you think it is to have that conversation about our issues in daytime television?
WW: For gay issues, I think it’s very important, because all of us have somebody in our family—a child who’s suffering right now or an uncle who’s now grown but suffered back then. Society sometimes can be so horrible. You know—gay is here to stay and we need to acknowledge that just like mixed couples are here to stay. For a lot of old school parents and grandparents, they don’t want their young black child on who they spent all this money to be educated to grow up and marry a white woman or an Asian woman to marry a black man. There are some things that are here to stay.
CM: I want to preface this question with the fact that when I told my friends I was interviewing you they all said—I love her—I totally get her. Now I did read the recent story on The Advocate website where you’ve been criticized by certain bloggers in the gay community for some of your phrasings. So my question is: does it hurt you when you hear people question your commitment and sincerity to the LGBT community?
WW: Well, it does hurt. It hurts me when my conversation is criticized by gay society just like it would hurt me if—being a black woman—if black people questioned my allegiance to us as a race. When I come onto the set of the show I come to a happy place. You know—it’s fun doing the show, and I hate when people don’t get it. But I know that everybody won’t. Here’s the thing—if you do your job correctly and if you’re on TV for long enough, you will probably have a little scuttlebutt with just about everybody. It will just be a matter of time.
CM: We are living in a remarkable time. I just married my partner of 12-years in Iowa, of all places; but just this year your home states of New York and New Jersey, they failed to pass marriage equality. Does that surprise you?
WW: Isn’t that weird? The allegedly most open city in the word—New York—and you have to get married in Iowa. Well, it just goes to show that maybe people aren’t so open. Isn’t that funny—I’ mean it’s not funny but it’s funny.
CM: I read in an interview where you said that you thought more people needed to come out—especially gay people of color—to help change opinions on marriage equality?
WW: Well, I do. We need more representation from minority groups in order for certain things to be passed, like gay marriage and acceptance of homosexuality. You need more soldiers in the army. Yes, it would be very important if more closeted black celebrities were to come out. I don’t want anybody to be hurt or anything like that—depending on how closeted the person is and for what reason. It all just seems unnatural to me—if I was gay I’d be doing cartwheels. I couldn’t imagine living life as a lie.
CM: Well, you’re an honorary gay—right!
WW: [Laughs] Oh, thank you!
CM: You really seem to set your celebrity guests at ease. When did you first realize—I’m good at this—I can get people to open up?
WW: I grew up in that kind of house. I’m one of three children, I’m the middle child and I come from a family of talkers. My mother and father who’ve been on the show before—they’ve been married for 53-years, they live in Miami and everybody’s a talker. Do you remember the old Rhoda show? My mother reminds me of Ida Morgenstern.
When did I realize…conversation with regular people, with friends, with teachers—baffling you with my B.S. while getting my grade changed—but meaning it: I know I got a C—but I swear to you I am smarter than this. One day you’ll understand.
I never grew up grew hearing that grades were the end all and be all. My parents exposed us to a lot of different things that makes the woman that you see in front of you now. One of those things that I was taught at an early age was learn how to speak well—learn the art of a quick conversation—learn how to use your mouth to get your way out of things.
Because you know, I was an average student—bigger, blacker—all of the things that perhaps were looked on as negatives in my town in New Jersey ended up working for me.
CM: Who would be your all-time celebrity guest and what would you ask them?
WW: I don’t have an all-time celebrity guest, other than Michelle Obama. And sometimes I think that’s so obvious—who wouldn’t want to interview her? But I want to interview her for different things.
First of all for her platform of cleaning up children’s lunches in school—I was a fluffy kid—I know exactly what that is. There’s our son [points across table]—he’s handsome and wonderful and fabulous—but his generation is the first generation who, according to the Center for Disease Control, is going to die before us unless we do something about the food. We can’t let that happen.
Not to mention the First Lady and I are the same age. I believe we are both head-strong women who know how to play our position at home. You know she’s got to rub her husband’s eyebrow at the end of the day. No matter how much education she has—we’re head strong women, but we’re girls—and we’re moms and we jump rope and we’re silly … So I would love to meet her. I want to talk about Crew dresses and heels. I don’t really want to get that heavy into politics but I would love to be able to help her with a few things, one being this thing with the kids. So she would be the ultimate guest.
CM: Before we finish, is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
WW: No—other than I appreciate the support of the gay community. The gay community has been a very pivotal force in my career from the beginning—from my radio career.
Back 23-years ago, it was gay kids and open minded girls and then it’s evolved into what it is right now—black people because I’m black and gay people because I’m down with the SWISH—straight women in support of homosexuality—I’m down with the swish [laughs]. But you know [the] black and gay [communities] are the cornerstone of who I am.
By COLIN MURPHY – EDITOR