What we study Wendy Williams from her disturbing new documentary

From her signature pink armchair, Wendy Williams helmed one of many top-rated daytime speak exhibits for greater than a decade, attracting a loyal following who got here to count on her daring takes on celeb gossip.

The previous radio host is beloved for her idiosyncrasies: mistakenly calling Dua Lipa “Dula Peep,” greeting visitors with “How you doin’?” and limp wrists, her quips turned web memes and her well-known “Sizzling Matters” segments. A polarizing determine, she was additionally criticized for her celeb slights that many take into account disrespectful, together with perpetuating a rumor that Tupac was raped in jail.

In “The place is Wendy Williams?,” a four-part particular that aired on Lifetime this weekend, a documentary crew got down to chronicle Williams’s journey to revive her profession amid rising considerations about well being points that pressured her to abruptly depart her speak present in 2022. However the sequence centered largely on private and unsettling scenes of Williams’s declining well being and her habit points, which later derailed filming after she was admitted to a medical facility for therapy.

Within the days main as much as the premiere, Williams’s care group gave a startling replace on these well being challenges, asserting that she was recognized with major progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) final yr. She underwent medical exams amid widespread hypothesis about her situation, “significantly when she started to lose phrases, act erratically at occasions, and have problem understanding monetary transactions,” a information launch said.

Major progressive aphasia is a neurological syndrome that regularly impairs communication expertise. FTD refers to uncommon sorts of dementia that have an effect on the frontal and temporal lobes within the mind. Bruce Willis was additionally recognized with FTD final yr.

“My mother has accomplished a very good job of creating it look like every thing is okay, all the time,” Williams’s son Kevin Hunter Jr. says in the course of the docuseries. “However in actuality, there’s one thing fallacious happening.”

A number of scenes within the documentary present Williams showing to battle together with her reminiscence and following conversations. A visit Williams took to get vape pens from her common smoke store turned bitter as she lashed out at her publicist Shawn Zanotti and her driver. She didn’t acknowledge the shop, and repeatedly demanded the particular vapes she needed regardless of Zanotti telling her they weren’t in inventory.

Later, in an emotional sit-down from her New York condominium with actuality star Angela White (often known as Blac Chyna), Williams removes her wig and exhibits White her naked toes, misshapen and swollen on account of lymphedema. Throughout their dialog, Williams seems confused and abruptly tells White that her actual identify is “Wendy Hunter. Yup. And I’m divorced. He’s received no cash.” (Williams filed for divorce from Kevin Hunter in 2019, her husband of greater than 20 years, after he fathered a toddler with one other girl).

“With regards to my aunt’s dementia, there are three issues that didn’t assist,” says Williams’s niece Alex Finnie within the docuseries. “Her divorce, the pandemic after which shedding [her mom],” who handed away in December 2020.

Williams’s fractured relationships come to floor all through the sequence. Cameras adopted alongside as she reunited together with her household in Miami final yr for the primary time in 8 months. Family members interviewed within the documentary revealed she had beforehand stayed with them when “The Wendy Williams Present” was nonetheless in manufacturing and considerations for her well being and well-being had been rising.

Williams was doing higher when she was together with her household in Florida, Hunter Jr. mentioned, including that he stored her away from alcohol and helped her achieve 20 to 30 kilos. However he and different members of the family declare that her speak present producers started pressuring Williams to return to New York and resume filming. “They noticed that she was down right here for too lengthy and [that] our precedence wasn’t simply to mud her up and put her again onstage,” Williams’s nephew Travis Finnie mentioned. “It was to truly deal with long-term restoration.” She went again to New York after the courtroom intervened, Alex Finnie added.

The household pushed again on accusations towards them that contributed to the court-ordered monetary guardianship Williams was positioned underneath in June 2022, after Wells Fargo argued in a petition that she was a sufferer of “undue affect and monetary exploitation.”

The financial institution questioned Williams’s son about spending $100,000 from his mom’s account, Travis mentioned, though Williams had beforehand accepted spending related quantities on her son’s celebration, Uber Eats orders and lease. Hunter Jr. mentioned he’s spent his mom’s cash solely together with her consent.

Sabrina Morrissey, who says she’s the short-term guardian of “W.W.H.,” doubtless Williams, filed a sealed lawsuit in New York Supreme Courtroom on Thursday towards Lifetime mum or dad firm A&E Tv Networks and Leisure One Actuality Productions to quickly cease the documentary’s launch. Nonetheless, a choose determined Friday that the particular couldn’t be barred from airing, as it will violate the businesses’ freedom of speech.

“We’re grateful the Courtroom acted rapidly,” Rachel Strom, an legal professional for the leisure corporations, mentioned in an announcement. “Viewers can watch the documentary for themselves and kind their very own opinions in regards to the present and listen to about Wendy Williams’ latest struggles in her personal phrases.”

Morrissey’s attorneys didn’t reply to a request for remark, and the remainder of the case’s contents are nonetheless sealed, pending a Tuesday courtroom listening to.

Amid the well being, household and guardianship points documented within the present, Williams seems desperate to be in entrance of the digicam and round folks for her “profession comeback,” doing picture shoots and planning her podcast together with her supervisor Will Selby and Zanotti. However their working relationship usually clashes — throughout filming, Zanotti flew Williams to Los Angeles with out alerting Selby or her guardian.

Whereas out West, Williams ready to fulfill with NBC a couple of new present, and took images with followers by her Hollywood Stroll of Fame star. “I’m positive it’ll occur,” she tells a fan who inquires about her return to tv.

Producers for “The place is Wendy Williams?” mentioned NBC declined to remark in regards to the assembly and no provide for the present ever materialized.

All through the particular, members of Williams’s group and household are sometimes at odds about her well-being and categorical conflicting views about which pursuits are in her finest pursuits.

“She all the time talks about how she desires to work,” Hunter Jr. mentioned. “However I really feel as if she’s labored sufficient. She has folks round her who’re ‘sure’ folks and permitting this to proceed.”

Williams will get defensive when questioned about her alcohol consumption, as her internal circle tries to discourage her consuming. In the meantime, her publicist Zanotti doesn’t suppose it’s an issue. “I’ve by no means witnessed her being drunk in my life,” Zanotti says, when a crew member asks her about Williams’s consuming. “She is aware of her limits, she is aware of when to cease.”

In August 2022, Williams made headlines after paparazzi claimed she was “handed out” beside a glass of champagne in a Louis Vuitton retailer in New York. The incident arrived a month after the court-ordered guardianship took her away from household in Florida, her nephew Travis mentioned. “It’s very clear she has an issue with alcohol.” And in response to her medical doctors, Hunter Jr. mentioned, Williams’s dementia is alcohol-induced.

Zanotti additionally dismissed considerations about Williams’s cognitive state. “Generally she could neglect a phrase or one thing alongside these traces,” Zanotti mentioned, earlier than saying that she has by no means spoken to Williams’s medical group. “However I really feel that she’s okay and from the time I began working together with her till now, she’s a lot better. She’s bouncing again.” In one other scene later that day, Zanotti asks if Williams desires to attend the Oscars. Williams replies, “Who’s Oscar?”

Williams’s household seems cautious and distrusting of Zanotti, who mentioned she was first employed to assist with “disaster and PR administration” after the Wells Fargo’s petition.

After assembly Zanotti at Williams’s condominium, Alex Finnie abruptly walks out and confronts the movie crew in regards to the publicist’s presence.

“That is my aunt and I don’t want her within the room,” Finnie says. “I don’t even know who she is.”

Later, Finnie questions Williams about how a lot Zanotti is paid.

“The Aunt Wendy that I do know that has instilled in me methods to navigate this loopy enterprise that we’re in, this isn’t it,” mentioned Finnie, who’s a reporter for a neighborhood information station in Miami. “Hearken to the folks in your life that aren’t taking a dime, that aren’t profiting.”

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Williams claims she had “billions of {dollars}” in her Wells Fargo account that was stolen by a monetary guardian, who is just not named within the documentary. Producers say Williams has offered no proof of the guardian or the financial institution stealing or mismanaging cash from her account.

Courtroom-appointed guardians, or conservators, have come underneath scrutiny lately after a 2021 documentary inspecting Britney Spears’s conservatorship raised questions in regards to the ethics and origins of the association. For 13 years, Spears’s father Jamie was the conservator of each her property and her particular person, which allowed management over her every day actions, social life and medical care. Following months of widespread criticism and fan outcry, the star’s conservatorship was terminated in November 2021.

In revealing particulars about Williams’s personal guardianship in “The place is Wendy Williams?”, her household is hoping for the same final result.

“I hope that when folks watch this, they stroll away considering ‘how was it that the courtroom was concerned, she has a guardian that’s alleged to be managing her day-to-day, her funds, all of that.’” Alex Finnie mentioned. “‘How is all that occuring and Wendy’s life simply fell by means of the cracks?’”

Following her journeys to Los Angeles and Miami, Williams’s well being spiraled because the cameras stored rolling. Producers arrived to her condominium for a scheduled interview the place Williams was slumped on the sofa and appeared intoxicated — her eye make-up smudged and phrases slurred.

After she’s requested about her time in Miami together with her son, Williams begins crying earlier than Selby steps in to close down filming in what turns into the previous host’s final look on digicam for the documentary.

“That is the third time, for positive, that we’ve come to do the interview and she will be able to’t do it,” a producer tells Selby.

Within the following days, Selby gives updates on Williams’s well being. He mentioned he coordinated with the guardian to confess her right into a medical facility. Her household was not conscious of the placement.

The information of her extra well being points has raised questions in regards to the ethics of publicizing Williams, who’s listed an government producer for the documentary, in a weak state. Longtime viewers of Williams’s speak present had been particularly involved by footage of the previous host and not using a wig, after years of sporting hairpieces in public because of her thinning hair.

“I don’t suppose a lucid Wendy would need folks to see her this manner,” former CNN host Don Lemon posted on X, previously Twitter. “She would take her wig off at my home however not permit us to take pics.”

Others have argued that producing the documentary was truthful, seeing how she’s acknowledged denying privateness to her “Sizzling Matters” topics over time.

Throughout Williams’s six-month therapy, producers stored involved together with her household and group. They are saying she appeared more healthy, happier and sober.

“I really feel like she’s in an area now the place she is dropping the work and understanding what’s extra necessary to her,” Selby mentioned. “And that’s her household.”

A lot of her relations had been unified of their view that this time feels completely different.

“There’s going to be a contented ending,” mentioned Wanda, Williams’s sister, “and perhaps the blissful ending is fueled by the truth that that is all public … it forces us to simply battle just a little tougher.”

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