The New Jersey-born talk-show host, now in her 13th season interviewing celebrities and dishing unfiltered opinions during her “Hot Topics” segment, is the subject of two Lifetime projects debuting Saturday: “Wendy Williams: The Movie,” a biopic (8 EST/PST), and documentary, “Wendy Williams: What a Mess!” (10 EST/PST).
Williams is an executive producer for both projects, which cover similar ground. The star, who got her start in radio, tells USA TODAY she wanted her story told because “life was getting more interesting than I could possibly tell in a book or during Hot Topics.” She also wanted to share the lessons she’s picked up along the way. “I like to share,” the 56-year-old says. “It’s what I do.”
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The movie and documentary trace her life, including miscarriages, cocaine use, rape and the crumbling of her marriage to Kevin Hunter, a former producer on her talk show. The couple ended their nearly 22-year union in 2019 after reports surfaced that Hunter had fathered a baby with another woman. Williams seemingly confirmed these reports in an interview with The New York Times Magazine, saying “Kevin has a daughter.”
Although the movie and the documentary cover similar ground, the documentary has the added benefit of stories from Williams herself in her signature tell-it-like-it-is style. She says no topic was off limits for the projects, which show her “fighting my way through surviving 35 years of a career that I wanted since I was little girl.”
The movie “encompasses a woman’s struggle to balance and be all things to people in her life that matter,” she says. “It’s not easy.”
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“Wendy Williams: The Movie” opens with Williams (Ciera Payton) backstage at her talk show. “Now, it’s time to dish my own dirt,” she says to the camera, “and honey, nobody does it better.” The story then flashes back to Williams’ hometown of Ocean Township, New Jersey, in 1975, where a young Wendy struggled with her weight and criticism from her parents about her appearance and demeanor.
As an adult, she describes her cocaine habit as a new “diet.” “It suppressed my appetite and gave me all the chemical courage I thought I needed” while working in radio in Washington, D.C. in 1987, she says in the film.
In an interview, Williams says she was addicted to the stimulant and surprised herself with her ability to later quit cold turkey.
“I had a big career, and I didn’t want a splashy headline where I had to take off for a month to go to some rehab,” she says. “I stopped because I wanted to. Didn’t even know that I had the strength within me, but I love me and my career more than I loved cocaine.”
When it came to quitting her marriage, Williams says she was methodical and planned her separation for years from her once “great love,” for years, hoping to minimize damage to the couple’s son, Kevin Hunter Jr. and her career.
“Once we got to the television level of my career, I was juggling private detective firms,” she says. “I was Googling the best divorce lawyers, I was Googling, ‘How to get a divorce.’ I was Googling, ‘What’s the difference between a divorce in New Jersey and a divorce in L.A.?'”
Williams says her ex “was a bully, and I took his verbal abuse because I had to be strong for my son and because I wanted to win. I was not trying to get divorced and put all of my belongings in a storage unit until I found the perfect apartment.
(Hunter, who couldn’t be reached, issued a statement to Lifetime through a representative, calling Williams’ allegations “either inaccurate or false.”)
“He inconvenienced my life with his attitude, a baby and a lot of affairs,” she says. “And now I’m going to inconvenience his by letting him know that I’ve got the best apartment, I’ve got the best view, I’ve got the best concierge, I live the best life, I eat the best food. I have the best of the best.”
“Wendy Williams: The Movie” and “Wendy Williams: What a Mess!” will be available for streaming on Lifetime’s website beginning Sunday.
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