Talkshow host, author, and TV personality, Wendy Williams, has built a successful career out of broadcasting what some call her “winning personality” and what others call her “despicable vitriol”. It’s no secret that the New Jersey-born celebrity is a controversial figure in the world of showbiz, and it’s probably because of all the drama, her countless feuds, and politically incorrect views that so many still tune into ‘The Wendy Williams Show’ – but what did Wendy Williams do before she was famous?
Before Wendy Williams was famous she worked for many years on radio. Referred to in New York City as the “Shock Jockette”, Williams amassed the set of skills that she would eventually use to achieve success hosting her very own daytime TV talk show later in her career.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that, just because Williams was forging an identity as a media personality during the formative years of her career, she was at one point any less controversial – she wasn’t.
Even during the celeb’s tenure in radio, she was still making enemies, landing herself in hot water, and generally displaying the stoic and enduring Williams-first mentality that many of her fans know and love.
The Shock Jockette
During Williams’ time studying Communications at Boston’s Northeastern University in the 80s, she began to get involved in radio, becoming a DJ for the college radio station, WRBB. Her break, following university, came when she got a job at WVIS in the United States Virgin Islands.
Reflecting on her time working in the Caribbean, Williams once said: “How soon can I make plans to come back… It [VI] is nothing but good memories. It’s affordable and beautiful…it’s clean.”
However, Williams’ long-term future wasn’t bound to the sun-soaked shores of the USVI. Her next opportunity took the future celeb to Washington D.C., and then she landed a job in New York.
It was in New York that Williams was “best known” and where she really began to carve out a niche for herself and grow the Williams brand. One report suggests that from day one station owners knew “she had something special”. Public Enemy producer, Bill Stephney, said: “I view her as one of the all-time great radio personalities — someone who essentially redefined the medium”.
An article in The Washington Post reads: “While Williams’s success in radio is undeniable — she was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2009 — her tenure is most remembered for her incendiary rhetoric.”
Williams’ tendency to share outspoken and contentious views were, and have always been, a central aspect of the Williams brand, which is why she was nicknamed the Shock Jockette.
During her time in radio, Williams made a lot of enemies while covering the hip hop scene by falsely insinuating that a number of high-profile artists such as Tupac, Q-Tip, and P. Diddy were gay.
In a TV interview with P. Diddy many years later, the hip hop artist was full of praise for Williams, saying:
“I want to just tell you how proud I am of you because I don’t think you get enough credit for really being the first one to cover our culture — you know, the hip-hop culture and also hip-hop celebrities — and just understanding that it’s news.”
In many ways, Williams’ brand is as much about generating controversy and drama as it is about anything else. This is, after all, what the average 1.6 million daily viewers of ‘The Wendy Williams Show’ have come to expect from the TV host.
However, despite the level of entertainment that Williams’ swashbuckling, feather-rustling style of journalism generates, the celebrity has landed herself in hot water over the years.
In early 2020, Williams came under fire after saying that gay men should “stop wearing our skirts and our heels” during an episode of her show.
Later on, she apologized for her comments in a video message on Twitter: “I’ll start by saying, I apologize. I did not mean to offend my LGBTQ+ community on yesterday’s show… I’m very persnickety about how I do my show and one thing I can tell you right now is that I never do the show in a place of malice… I understand my platform with the community from first grade to intermediate school to high school to college to radio, and now to TV … I didn’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings. I’m just having a conversation. If you know me long enough, then you know.”
The Williams Legacy
The journalistic style of Wendy Williams can be likened to playing devil’s advocate, and it certainly isn’t popular among everyone, but it definitely is among her fans.
Ultimately, a lot can be said about Williams’ personality, but her legacy will be one that blurs the line between fame and infamy – would she want it any other way?