‘How you doin’?’
SN&R chats with Wendy Williams about life on the road, family and her reign as the Queen of Nothing
Wendy Williams doesn’t do subtle.
So it makes sense for the shock jock turned TV host to hit the road in a big, in-your-face fashion as she travels cross-country in a giant pink tour bus to promote her Say It Like You Mean It tour.
The tour, which arrives in Sacramento on September 1, is the real-life version of Williams’ rowdy syndicated daytime talk show, The Wendy Williams Show.
Williams, a New Jersey native, originally earned fame via New York’s radio airwaves by dishing dirt on rappers and mercilessly ribbing celebrity guests—Whitney Houston once famously cussed out Williams after the deejay counseled her to quit drugs and dared to ask about then-husband Bobby Brown’s prison stint.
Now, the talk show, which launches its third season on September 12 (weekdays at 2 p.m. on Fox40), gives Williams’ “How you doin’?” catch phrase a national audience, as well as a platform for her ribald, unabashedly confessional take on tabloid gossip, health-care tips, sex and Slim Jim beef jerky.
Williams recently called SN&R from the road to chat about “the family business,” living life as the Queen of All Media and how she’d rather be a 1950s-era housewife.
Hi, how are you?
(Laughs.) How you doin’?
Ha—great—but seriously, how are you?
Good. I love being on a tour bus. It’s big and wrapped in pink with a big picture of me on the side.
Tell me about life on the road.
It’s spectacular. I do these mini presentations with “hot topics” and an “Ask Wendy” segment. I get to hang with people.
What’s the “Ask Wendy” segment?
It’s me introducing myself to people [with] participants from the audience. I have my husband [Kevin Hunter], who is one of our executive producers, oversee the questions; I travel with a small staff—my husband, my hairstylist, my makeup artist and my son.
What’s it like having your son on the road with you?
Awesome, it’s the best. He’s 10—just about to turn 11—and he’s already familiar with most of the staff we’re traveling with. We call [my] talk show “the family business,” so he just loves it. He’s not just running around the tour bus bored, he’s very involved and he’s very encouraging. At one point, he leaned over to me and said, “Mom, I’m really proud of you—so many people love you and are coming out to see you; you should be proud of yourself.” He enables me to be my “How you doin’” best.
What would you do if he wanted to go into show business, too?
Oh my god—well, right now he wants to be an NBA star, [and] I’ll encourage him to do whatever he wants; the family business, at this point, is just me. … I would love that when my son graduates from business school he’d go [into the family business] and help my husband. Really, honestly, it would kill me for him to become a rapper—I’d rather have him go to college and be successful that way.
You call yourself the Queen of All Media. Where did that come from?
I was a fan of Howard Stern’s and then [we] became friends, and I’d have his wife on my show and he’d call me that. It was tongue-in-cheek. I told Howard, I’m not the queen of anything except for my house—and really, not even there. I’m the Queen of Nothing.
But really, you’ve come along way in entertainment.
I’m really proud of myself—it didn’t have to turn out this way. My parents are teachers, my sister is a lawyer, my younger brother is a teacher. I wasn’t really supported by my family. I was in radio for 25 years, and it’s only been the last 10 years that my family has supported what I do. I’ve got old-school parents who were like, “Why didn’t you become a doctor or marry a doctor?” (Laughs.) God bless me, now I’m a best-selling author and my radio career was so successful I was recently inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame—even though I was only paid 75 cents to every man’s dollar.
What was that like, being a woman in a male-dominated industry? Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I shy away from using a word like “feminism,” because people misconstrue that word and think I don’t like wearing makeup, that I don’t like men. As soon as you call yourself a feminist, people get these ideas.
A woman needs to be a woman. I believe in a woman’s role—my parents have been married for 50 years and I’ve watched my mother maintain her household. When I grow up, I want to be just like my mother.
I consider myself a feminist, but I think that people take that concept overboard.
I love my husband, I love being married, but I didn’t let it get in the way of my career choices. The most important thing is to take care of yourself.
How do you juggle those two ideals?
I make sure the dishwasher is empty and I keep a clean house. My family comes before my career. I take care of everything.
Do you have a housekeeper?
Of course I do, but she’s not the boss of our home. I do my own grocery shopping, I buy every single towel and pillow that we have. I don’t deal with outside people to run my home.
I’m a ’50s housewife trapped in a new age. I consider myself a housewife who happens to be very fortunate with a daytime talk show.
At the end of the day when I finish my job, I go back to Jersey and become Wendy Hunter. I’m friends with Vanessa Williams and [The Millionaire Matchmaker star] Patti Stanger, but I’m not going out and having drinks with them—I’m 47 years old and I want to go home and sleep. Those years are behind me. I need to moisturize and I need eight hours of sleep.
You were working on a movie, Queen of Media, based on your life and starring Robin Givens as you—what’s up with its release?
That was a movie we did at a time that ended up being my last year in radio. My husband and I financed it independently and we planned on putting it out one day, but then we got the call that they wanted to do the talk show. So [we decided] that the movie can be redone, and I can play myself.
I think I can do a better-quality movie now. I have [financial] backers. It was a wonderful experience and Robin was great … but now the best thing to do is to just sit on the movie.
Before, I didn’t have the time or the acting chops. Now, I still don’t have the time, but I’m ready to play myself, so we’ll just put it on hold for a minute more and I’ll live more life and make it more juicy.