The Queen of Gossip and Controversy: Wendy Williams

Ever since her early days as a radio host and DJ, Wendy Williams was never one to shy away from drama. The New York native really made a name for herself with a successful, long-running TV show and other business endeavors. Despite becoming a household name, Wendy Williams certainly had her share of struggles as she worked her way up.

Wendy Williams posing excitedly at a celebration with a flower wreath around her head / Wendy, Kevin, and Kevin Jr posing together on the red carpet / Wendy Williams holding up her book in a book store in front of the shelves / Wendy Williams crying during an interview / Kevin and Wendy Williams sitting together in a booth during an event / Wendy Williams posing with Mickey and Minnie Mouse
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Unfortunately, her problems didn’t disappear after she reached the top. Between health complications and a very messy, public divorce, 2019 wasn’t an easy year for the talk show host. Other than dealing with pain and heartbreak, Williams always seems to be dealing with some kind of controversy. Here are some fascinating facts about Wendy Williams and how a New York radio DJ became the self-proclaimed “Queen of All Media.”

Where It All Started

Wendy Williams was born in Asbury Park, New Jersey, on July 18th, 1964. She was a little bit of an outcast growing up. Wendy was a tall, Black girl in a predominantly white upper-middle-class high school, so she didn’t exactly fit in.

Wendy Williams as a young girl standing in her living room near the Christmas Tree
Source: Pinterest

Williams admitted that she was already the loud and nosey Williams we all know and love today during that time. But when she was a teenager, the talk-show host claimed: “that it was embarrassing to my family.” Honestly, embarrassing your family seems to be part of the road to success.

Comedian at Heart

Wendy Williams is the self-proclaimed Queen of All Media, and nobody seems to be arguing. However, you can’t be a master at everything. Although it’s difficult to picture Wendy Williams as anything but a talk-show host, she initially wanted to do stand-up comedy. She finally got the chance in 2014, when she was booked at the Venetian in Las Vegas.

Wendy Williams as a teenager in a school portrait
Source: Pinterest

In 2019, Williams booked a comedy tour, but her first show got canceled just 24 hours before it was set to start. Rumor has it, the reason was low ticket sales. Shortly after, dates were postponed and canceled, which led more people to speculate. Eventually, all the comedy tour dates got canceled.

Starting From the Bottom

Williams attended Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. Once she graduated, she finally got her first radio gig, but it wasn’t as glamorous as you might expect. She moved to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands so that she could host a hip-hop and R&B show and made $3.25 an hour.

Wendy Williams leaning on her wrist sitting at the side of a house
Source: Twitter

Williams didn’t even last a year in St. Croix – and who could blame her? Her next gigs paid better but were very demanding. She was the host of an afternoon show in Washington, D.C., commuting all the way back to Queens, New York on the weekends to host an overnight shift.

Asking the Tough Questions

In 2003, Wendy Williams had her most notorious interview with Whitney Houston. At the time, the singer dealt with some serious personal issues and was at the center of intense public scrutiny. Houston called into Williams’ radio show so that she could promote her new album.

Whitney Houston arriving at an event waving
Photo by Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

However, she found herself bombarded by extremely personal questions. If you are familiar with the talk-show host, you know she has very few boundaries when it comes to interviews. First, Williams asked Houston if she was taking substances at the time. Houston said no, but it got worse from there.

Williams vs. Houston

After asking Houston all these personal questions, she tried to relate to the singer. Williams shared that she too struggled with addiction, but Houston wasn’t having it; her response was: “Well, that’s your problem, that’s not my problem. Move on.”

Wendy Williams posing with her arms spread on the red carpet
Photo by Ilya S Savenok / Match / Getty Images

After that, Williams had the nerve to tell Houston that she was being defensive. Houston sadly replied, “I have to be, Wendy, you talking about me every [bleeping] day.” If you listened to Wendy Williams’ show back in the day, you could attest that the singer wasn’t wrong.

Catch Me Outside

Williams continued with the difficult questions, though. She asked Houston whether she told her daughter, Bobbi Kristina, about why her father was in jail. Houston responded with some curse words and clear anger. If that wasn’t bad enough, Williams didn’t stop there.

Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston at an event in 1994 posing on the red carpet
Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston 1994. Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images

Williams went on to ask the singer about her sex life with Bobby Brown, and Houston said: “Wendy, don’t make me meet you outside.” The controversial interview got worldwide media coverage and took Williams from a local TV personality to national recognition. It looks like her unfiltered nature worked in her favor.

Everyone Has Their Problems

Say what you want about Wendy Williams but being fake isn’t a quality she possesses. In fact, she is an open book and candid about her own personal demons. Back in the ‘90s, the radio host confessed that she was addicted to illicit substances. Unfortunately, her struggles didn’t end with the millennium.

Wendy Williams in a pink fur coat with a matching hat sitting down at an event
Photo by Johnny Nunez / WireImage / Getty Images

Between 1989 and 1995, Williams managed to stand out and make a name for herself in New York City radio at WRKS. Just a few years after getting her own show, Wendy Williams won the Billboard Award for “Best On-Air Radio Personality” in 1993.

Her First Husband

Williams is known for her decisiveness and being good at planning ahead. Although these traits could be great for her career and professional life, it doesn’t always come across the right way in her personal life. In 1994, she married her first husband, Bert Girigorie, and when the pair called it quits five months later, the dark side of her decisive nature came out.

Wendy Williams with Bert Girigorie on their wedding day
Source: Pinterest

New York Magazine did a profile on Williams in which they described the very day Williams left hubby number one: “After he left for work, she divided up their possessions and hired two moving cans and a locksmith. He’s figuring it out.” A year later, their divorce was finalized.

You’re Fired!

Wendy Williams worked at Hot 97 for nearly a decade. She was responsible for taking the radio station from dead last to a must-listen. However, in 1998, Williams got a heartbreaking blow. The host was abruptly fired!

Wendy Williams on the red carpet in a hot pink fur jacket
Photo by KMazur / WireImage / Virgin Records / Getty Images

Rumors circulated that she was let go because she got into a fistfight with another female DJ who worked at the station. Williams denied those allegations. Obviously, she felt devastated. She put so much of her time and energy into the radio station and felt like they betrayed her.

Bad Boys Fight Back

During that time, Sean Combs, known as Puff Daddy, was at the top of the charts. Whether it was his own music or artists signed to his record label, Bad Boy, he was always up there. He was a pretty big deal and powerful force in the music industry. Williams believes that he was the reason she got fired. And he apparently did it for a disturbing reason.

Puff Daddy and Wendy Williams backstage at an event
Photo by Johnny Louis / Getty Images

So, what exactly did Combs have against Williams? Many people say the feud went way back to two of William’s trademark digs. She once suggested that the rapper wasn’t straight and posted an unflattering picture of him on her website.

She Called It in the ‘90s

Puff Daddy wasn’t the first person who tried getting Wendy Williams fired because of her instigating antics. Williams claimed that in 1991 and 1992, Bill Cosby tried to get her fired. She didn’t confirm why, but she did suggest that it had to do with the fact that she believed the allegations against him, even all those years ago.

Wendy Williams being interviewed
Photo by D Dipasupil / Extra / Getty Images

Williams clarified that she believes Bill Cosby’s victims. She even told Howard Stern that her only opinion on the subject is “guilty.” I can’t argue with her there.

Just a Little Help

Wendy Williams isn’t shy about many things and shares a lot with her audience. Including the fact that she enhances her appearance with plastic surgery procedures. Many people are embarrassed about this kind of stuff and don’t like to talk about it, but not Williams.

Wendy Williams on stage laughing
Photo by Sarah Morris / Getty Images

In 1994, she got breast implants, and since then, she has gotten a tummy tuck and liposuction. It’s important to be honest about these things. Young girls need to realize nobody is perfect and even celebrities have their insecurities.

Before They Fired Her

When 1994 was coming to an end, Williams was transferred to HOT 97 as part of an attempt to take the once-beloved radio station back to its former glory. The station changed its format to emphasize the growing popularity of hip-hop music, especially East Coast artists.

Wendy Williams in a long black dress with white stars on it
Photo by Axelle / Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic / Getty Images

They included young, savvy DJs like Williams and the now-iconic Angie Martinez. This risky choice really paid off. By 1995, Hot 97 was the top New York City radio station. And it remains a go-to station for hip-hop lovers to this day.

Life Partner and Business Partner

Williams walked down the aisle for the second time in 1997, this time with Kevin Hunter. When he got married, his career didn’t quite measure up to hers. Hunter worked as a party promoter and owned a hair salon.

Wendy Williams with Kevin Hunter arriving to a red carpet event
Wendy Williams with Kevin Hunter. Photo by Johnny Nunez / WireImage / Getty Images

Although their professional lives seemed different, they had one very important thing in common: ambition. It didn’t take long for Hunter to partner up with Williams, join her business, and become Williams’s manager. It looks like having Wendy Williams as a wife certainly has its perks!

Clapping Back in True Wendy Fashion

After she got the boot from Hot 97, no one in the New York City radio world would touch the host with a ten-foot pole. At that point, she took a part-time job at a Philadelphia radio station, but she turned out to be just as notorious there as she was in NYC.

Wendy Williams getting emotional behind the mic in 2013
Photo by Jemal Countess / Getty Images

Calls were frequently critical, but Wendy Williams was a professional. When one caller called in to say she “looked like a dude,” Williams clapped back, “but you’re listening.” Yikes! That was a low blow, but at least she had a good comeback.

The Sad Truth

If there is one thing Williams is famous for, it’s her confrontational style with celebrity guests. But in Philadelphia, she showed an even more startling side of her on-air persona: her ultra-confessional style. During her time at Power 99, she opened up about everything from her marriage to Hunter, her substance abuse past, plastic surgeries, and fertility difficulties.

Kevin Hunter and Wendy Williams arriving to an event in 2008
Kevin Hunter and Wendy Williams. Photo by Johnny Nunez / WireImage / Getty Images

Williams also made a heartbreaking confession to her listeners while working at Power 99. She shared how she suffered two miscarriages since she was married to Hunter. But in 2000, she finally had some good news. That’s the year she had her baby: Kevin Hunter Jr.

It’ssssss Wendy

Williams’s candid style and very open personality made her a huge hit in Philadelphia and, by extension, at Power 99. When she started working at the station, it was ranked #14 for listeners in the popular 18-to-34 demographic. Listeners fell in love with Wendy.

Wendy Williams speaking into a VH1 microphone at an event
Photo by Johnny Nunez / WireImage / Getty Images

She brought them up to #2 by 2000, but her success would inspire yet another enormous life shift. Clearly, the station needed her, so this gave Williams a lot of power. She was ready to take the next step and become the sensation she was born to be.

Everyone Knows Wendy Williams

Despite being run out of New York City, her success in Philadelphia gave her the leverage she needed to come back to the place where it all started: the city that never sleeps. Williams and Hunter headed back to the Big Apple in 2001 so that she could work for WBLS. It was there where she would eventually have her infamous interview with Whitney Houston.

Wendy Williams posing with a side-eye on the red carpet
Photo by Brian Ach / WireImage / Getty Images

The WBLS show was syndicated, which meant that the station could sell it to other markets. At that point, Williams made a name for herself outside of New York: syndication meant that she had become a fixture in people’s houses, cars, and offices in countless other cities.

From Reality Star to Talk Show Star

Initially, Williams was given a six-week trial, and they aired her program, The Wendy Williams Show, in four different cities. On July 14th, 2008, the show premiered; Fox decided to pick up the talk show after its successful run.

Daniel Radcliffe as a guest on the Wendy Williams Show sharing a joke and eating chicken nuggets with Williams
Photo by Rahav Segev / WireImage / Getty Images

However, The Wendy Williams Show wasn’t the first time Williams appeared on TV. She was also part of the VH1 reality show, The Wendy Williams Experience, which documented the day-to-day behind-the-scenes activity on her radio show. But unlike her hit talk-show, the reality-show lasted just eight episodes.

Not So Fast

Wendy Williams should have been on top of the world in 2008. I mean, she was one of the most popular radio hosts ever, and her TV show was about to premiere. But then… it all came crashing down. One of the talent bookers who worked at The Wendy Williams Experience in 2006, Nicole Spence, filed a complaint against Williams.

Kevin Hunter and Wendy Williams posing together at a party
Kevin Hunter and Wendy Williams. Photo by Johnny Nunez / WireImage / Getty Images

The complaint eventually escalated into a full-on lawsuit against the radio-host, her husband Kevin Hunter, and the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation. So, what exactly was all this about? Well… Spence’s accusations were incredibly disturbing.

Abusive Work Environment?

Nicole Spence claimed that Hunter forced her to be intimate with him on more than one occasion. She said this happened frequently, and the work environment was full of threats and abuse. But that wasn’t all.

A portrait of Wendy Williams / A selfie of Nicole Spence
Nicole Spence. Photo by Nicholas Hunt, Getty Images / Source: Twitter

Spence also alleged that she and other people working there saw Hunter physically abuse Williams during production. Williams and Hunter both denied these allegations, and in October 2008, the case was dismissed. Yikes! Thankfully, times have changed since 2008. Nowadays, sexual and physical abuse is taken much more seriously, especially in the workplace.

Who’s Number One?!

Say what you want about Ellen DeGeneres, but she is an amazing talk-show host. Of course, she has had her share of controversy, but her show Ellen is incredibly entertaining and has made her a cultural phenomenon. Although she has a huge fanbase and a successful show, one host regularly beats her in the ratings.

Wendy Williams posing next to a large model of the Empire State Building
Photo by Gary Gershoff / WireImage / Getty Images

You guessed it – Wendy Williams. Ellen and The Wendy Williams Show alternate positions regularly as the number one female-hosted daytime TV show. There have been rumors about the beef between the two competitive talk-show hosts, but they have both appeared on the other’s show.

East Coast Girl

Even though her job now is talking about Hollywood, Wendy Williams actually spent most of her life on the East Coast. The shock jock was born in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and then her family moved to Ocean Township nearby.

Wendy Williams posing for a photograph on the Empire State Buildings observation deck holding on to the binoculars
Photo by Cindy Ord / Getty Images

She attended university in Boston and lived in New York City for most of her life since then. After splitting up with Hunter in 2019 (which we will get into later), she moved into an NYC apartment, and, according to Velvet Ropes, the host now lives in a rental home in Manhattan’s Financial District, paying a whopping $15,000 a month on rent.

Now She’s a Star

You know what they say, you are not a fixture in New York City entertainment until you make an appearance on Law & Order: SVU. Wendy Williams solidified her spot in NYC history in 2003 when she was featured in SVU, playing herself.

Wendy Williams being interviewed by someone holding up a box with an engagement ring in it in a scene from Law and Order: SVU
Source: / Copyright: NBC, USA Network

SVU is famous for its “ripped from the headlines” storylines, and this episode was no exception. It was about a young singer who was involved in an abusive relationship with a hip-hop star. It was an obvious reference to the 2009 Chris Brown/Rihanna incident.

Creating an Empire

Since transitioning from radio to The Wendy William’s show, Williams has had a much larger platform and the opportunity to expand her brand. Since her show’s debut in 2008, she pretty much created an empire.

Mary J Blige and Wendy Williams laughing on her talk show
Photo by Rahav Segev / WireImage / Getty Images

First off, she started a production company with Hunter. She was featured in a Broadway production of Chicago, has a jewelry line on QVC, and a Home Shopping Network clothing line. That’s extremely impressive. The New York radio host really blossomed into a pop culture sensation.

Held for Ransom

However, some alarming revelations about Williams’ jewelry line came to light in 2012. She commissioned a Chinese company to make more than 12,000 pairs of high heels for the Adorn logo. The Chinese company hired a shoe manufacturer but then vanished after the show manufacturer kidnapped one of their managers for two whole weeks!

Wendy Williams standing on a balcony with a microphone in her hand, looking serious
Photo by Paras Griffin / Getty Images

According to the rumors, the manufacturer held the manager captive because Williams didn’t pay the manufacturer or the Chinese company. However, the talk-show host never commented on the incident, and there hasn’t been any additional information on the situation since 2013.

The Truth About Her Eyes

In 2018, Wendy Williams admitted that she has two conditions that she suffers from that affect her thyroid gland: hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease. Williams said the Graves’ is the reason for the strange appearance of her eyes. Apparently, one of the side effects of the disease is eye bulging.

Wendy Williams sitting backstage at a documentary screening
Photo by Johnny Nunez / WireImage / Getty Images

On the Wendy Williams Show special Halloween episode in 2017, audiences were stunned when the talk show host collapsed on stage. Many thought it was staged, but the press later revealed that Williams was overheated because of the huge Statue of Liberty costume she was wearing. After an extended commercial break, she was able to continue with the show.

Controversial Comments

Wendy Williams came under fire in 2020 following the Oscar nominations announcement, when she commented on the scar on Best Actor nominee Joaquin Phoenix’s upper lip. She was accused of insulting people with a cleft palate and was met with a huge backlash. While discussing his appearance, she said: “When he shaves off his mustache, he’s got a hairline fracture.”

Wendy Williams with her finger up gesturing while she speaks at an event
Photo by Paras Griffin / Getty Images

Williams is known for saying what’s on her mind, but many people thought she took it too far. Williams didn’t mean to hurt anyone, and she apologized and also made a donation to two charities: Operation Smile and the American Cleft-Palate-Craniofacial Association.

She Has a Face for TV

Have you ever heard the phrase “he/she has a face for a radio?” Well, if there is one radio DJ for whom that doesn’t apply, it’s the glamorous Wendy Williams. With her looks, charm, personality, popularity, and success, her own talk show was the obvious next step.

Wendy Williams on the red carpet in 2018
Photo by Santiago Felipe / Getty Images

Wendy Williams is the self-proclaimed queen of all media. So, it makes sense that her aspirations go way beyond radio and TV. Williams is also a published author, with four novels and three non-fiction books. She is definitely a multi-talented star.

Perfect Attendance for 10 Years

Since her show’s debut, Wendy Williams has never missed an episode until February 2018, when three episodes were canceled. Shortly after, she stated that she was required to take three weeks off due to health problems. But, in the meantime, she announced that guest hosts would take over.

Wendy Williams laughing at a party in 2019
Photo by Bryan Bedder / Diesel / Getty Images

In the past, the talk show host insisted that she would never use a guest host, so it must have been extremely devastating for her to step down, even if it was just temporarily. Unfortunately, this was just the beginning of her problems.

Celebrity Substitutes

In 2019, just one year after her health problems required her to take a break, Williams needed to step down from her beloved show once again. This time indefinitely. A string of celebrity guests filled in for her during her long hiatus.

Nick Cannon hosting The Wendy Williams Show
Source: FOX

Williams cited that she needed some time off because she was dealing with a shoulder injury, on top of complications caused by her Graves’ disease. However, once she finally returned to the host’s chair, Williams confessed another disturbing reason she took a break.

Where Did Wendy Go?

During the March 24, 2019 episode of The Wendy Williams Show, the star shared the real reason she took that time off. Williams admitted that she was living in a sober facility for the first two months because of her issues with substance abuse. Before she told the world, the only people who knew were her husband and son.

Wendy Williams and Kevin Hunter posing together on the red carpet / Sharina Hudson walking in the street
Photo by Lev Radin, Pacific Press, LightRocket, Getty Images / Source: Pinterest

Sadly, this wasn’t the end of her dramatic news. Less than a month later, Williams confirmed that she had filed for divorce after almost 22 years of marriage with Kevin Hunter. The reason for the split was heartbreaking. Williams found out that Hunter has a love child with a woman named Sharina Hudson, but that wasn’t even the most shocking revelation.

It Wasn’t a One Night Stand

Williams discovered that Hunter’s romance with Hudson was an ongoing, long-term affair. At that point, she wasted no time. Williams told him to move out, fired him as her manager, served him divorce papers, but that wasn’t all.

Wendy Williams on the phone gesturing with her hand
Photo by Dave Kotinsky / Cantor Fitzgerald / Getty Images

Needless to say, she was not pleased when she found out that Hunter had bought this other woman a $215,000 Ferrari, so she got the car repossessed. Who could blame her? I would do the same thing. If there is one lesson to be learned from this, it is don’t mess with Wendy Williams.

Should Have Gotten a Prenup

Williams appeared on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen later that year. Cohen quizzed Williams about Hunter and Hudson’s relationship. Williams definitely couldn’t hide her smirk when she mentioned how she got the Ferrari towed, but she didn’t share much else.

Wendy Williams lying on her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Photo by Axelle / Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic / Getty Images

But here is what she did say: “I don’t know these people, I don’t know the baby, I don’t know the woman, I mean, I don’t know who Kevin became, I don’t know who I am.” I can’t imagine how devastating this revelation must have been after 20 years of marriage! Williams noted that if she ever gets married again, she’s definitely getting a prenup.

Mad at Dad

It looks like Wendy wasn’t the only one who was furious at Hunter for his betrayal. Police arrested William’s son, Kevin Hunter Jr., for domestic abuse on May 21st, 2019, when he punched his father in the face. He pled not guilty, and the court eventually dismissed the case. Williams and Hunter Sr. both supported their son after the arrest and even showed up to court together once.

Wendy Williams kissing Kevin Hunter Jr on the cheek at an event
Kevin Hunter Jr and Wendy Williams. Photo by Johnny Nunez / WireImage / Getty Images

After splitting up with Hunter, Williams adopted two rescue kittens and appropriately named them Chit Chat and My Way. She is now living alone in Manhattan with her two kitties.

Was She Being Poisoned?!

One of the strangest rumors about Wendy Williams spread in early 2019 while she was dealing with a shoulder injury, Graves’ disease, addiction, not working, and her husband’s infidelity. If that wasn’t bad enough, people were speculating that Kevin Hunter, her soon-to-be ex-husband, was poisoning her!

Wendy Williams on the red carpet in 2019
Photo by Astrid Stawiarz / SiriusXM / Getty Images

The police got a call from someone who said they worked on The Wendy Williams Show, claiming that Hunter was dosing Williams. The cops did a wellness check on Wendy but noted that Hunter didn’t want her to speak to them alone. Williams denied everything, and nothing ever came of it. It was just the cherry on top of a chaotic year for the talk-show host.

Born With an Extra Finger

Wendy Williams was actually born with an extra finger on her left hand. If you frequently watch her show, you probably saw the tiny bump remains of that sixth finger that she occasionally shows off. However, she still mourns its early removal.

Wendy Williams poses for a portrait sitting on a plain white cube
Source: Twitter

Although it could have been a fully flourished finger, Williams believed it could have become her signature greeting and hand flip “because my how ya doin’s would be really fantastic.” That may be true, but an extra finger would be really uncomfortable. Or would it? Now that I think of it, a sixth finger could be quite helpful.

A Competitive Swimmer

Williams has been open with fans about her weight issues, but teenage Williams was an athlete back in high school. In fact, she was good enough to compete with the Ocean Township High School swim team. In her memoir, she explained that she wanted to get involved in school activities to appeal to college admission offices.

Wendy Williams wearing a dress in the pool
Source: Twitter

She wrote: “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.” However, Williams knew she didn’t want to pursue swimming, so she declined the scholarship and attended Northeastern University instead.

Battle of the Implants

Williams spoke to Mariah Carey in a now-famous interview, where she grilled the singer about whether or not she had breast implants. Carey insisted she didn’t before leaving the interview. Shortly after, Williams received an interesting package in the mail. Carey sent her a box of push-up bras!

Wendy Williams arriving to an event in 2019
Photo by Paul Bruinooge / Getty Images

Wendy Williams always talks about the latest celebrity gossip, so it’s no surprise that she will be met with a certain degree of criticism. It only means she’s doing her job right! Love her or hate her, Wendy Williams worked her way up and made herself a pop culture fixture, no matter what personal issues she had to deal with.