Everyone knows Wendy Williams. Not the TV talk show host. The person. She’s your outspoken aunt. She’s your nosy neighbor. She’s your busybody cousin, who sometimes talks too much and too often puts her two cents in about your business – solicited or not. She’s your good friend who will certainly annoy you, but who you couldn’t live without. No pretense. No hypocrisy. Just Wendy. Take it or leave it.
Here’s how she recently greeted this columnist. I was seated alone in a tastefully decorated green room at Fox 2 News studios waiting to interview Wendy about the upcoming 10th season of her popular daytime talk show. She walked into the room and with no introduction, no salutation, she said: “Chuck, tell me about American Coney Island. Is it good? Should I go there?”
Slightly baffled and totally amused, I clumsily pull myself up from the cushy sofa. “Yes, my friend Grace (Keros) owns it and it is legendary in Detroit,” I replied. The conversation about coneys continued to the point of (at her request) me describing an American Coney Island. Her response was pursing her lips as if her mouth was watering – a gesture that she often makes during cooking segments on the TV show.
After a few more laughs, we sat down to tackle the business at hand – an interview about the 10-city tour, kicking off the 10th season of her TV show. The tour brought her to Detroit on Tuesday with the free event taking place Tuesday evening to a full house of fans at St. Andrews Hall in downtown Detroit.
“I guess you can call it an Evening with Wendy,” she said. “It doesn’t have a name. I have a DJ with me. There’s a bar. That gets people turned up and loose. Then I come out eventually. I talk. We do ‘Ask Wendy.’ It’s not a comedy show. Just fun.”
In terms of the 10th season of the TV show, Wendy assures that it will be much of the same. “Sometimes ‘same’ is comfortable,” she said. “We’ve tinkered and tweaked the show for the last 10 years. We’ve got a new studio. I’m not complaining. I’m awfully comfortable in front of the camera now. And I wear my flats.”
For the last several months, Wendy has shifted her sexy stilettos to the back of the closet and replaced them with flats. We couldn’t help but wonder if this was a trend, or a phase or will she go back to stilettos. “I don’t think I will,” she said. “No teetering in the heels. It takes your mind off of your jokes. I’m 54 years old. I am who I am. I’m very accomplished and I’m comfortable in the skin that I’m in. and let me set this straight. A flat is a flat, but these are Manolos.”
She wore black lace Manolo Blahnik flat shoes with black pants and a black sheer illusion mesh blouse with silk embroidered flowers. The look was totally blinged out with lots of big sparkling diamonds. “And they’re all mine,” she laughs. She admits that the switch to flat shoes changes the game a bit. “Stilettos are sexy, but they take too much concentrating. You know, the teetering.”
Wendy is mostly admired for her brutal honesty and her humor. “That’s why they like me, but that’s also why they don’t like me,” she adds. She may have met a match for her ferocious wit in 2011 during the second season of her show when she did a rare one-on-one, two-part interview with Aretha Franklin.
“She was fabulous,” she recalled. “Aretha is the aunt that everyone needs in their life. She’s going to tell you about yourself and she’s probably going to make you cry. But you’re going to think about it. She’s going to say it the way it is. I happen to adore her. I totally got her big personality. She earned her right to reign royal over us younger women. She earned her right to reign supreme. Sometimes it wasn’t right. But you better respect and don’t you say a word. And I still think that Jennifer Hudson would be great playing her in the movie. Although in my interview, she insisted on Halle Berry.”
Wendy readily speaks of her affection for Detroit: “I wouldn’t be here if Detroit didn’t vote me on TV. We did the sneak peek back in 2007. We were only on in New York, Dallas, L.A. and Detroit. If any one of those cities waffled, like, ‘meh, we don’t like her’, then we never would have had season one. I appreciate you. And you were also very supportive to my radio career. I dig you.”
Part of Wendy’s 10-city tour was also to promote the launch of Be Here (behere.org), a call-to-action campaign that aims to change the face of addiction to one of hope, community, education and engagement. Overcoming her own struggle with substance abuse, Wendy says: “Addiction is a scary thing to go through. This is a battle that can be won – if we do it together. Which is why I’m asking for you to join me in the Be Here movement and help save lives so the people who need us most know we will be here for them. Because we want to make sure they are here for all of life’s precious moments.”
With a goal to raise $10 million in 5 years, Be Here is done in conjunction with The Hunter Foundation, Wendy’s family charity (Hunter is her married name). For information about Be Here and The Hunter Foundation, visit behere.org and thehunter-foundation.org. The 10th season of “The Wendy Williams Show” begins at noon Sept. 10 on Fox 2 Detroit WJBK.