What the hell happened to Wendy’s money?

Illustration+Lucia+Thorne

Photo: Illustration Lucia Thorne

Illustration Lucia Thorne

By Hadera McKay, Opinion Editor

“How you doin’?!” When I was 9 years old, my grandmother used to make me repeat talk show host Wendy Williams’ famous catchphrase. She assessed my voice for my ability to parrot the pure diva and the unhinged, shit-talking confidence of Ms. Williams herself—as she presided over the gossip-hungry audience of her award-winning daytime talk show, The Wendy Williams Show

As a result, Wendy Williams has always served as a weird kind of role model for me; a successful Black woman in the entertainment industry, famous for her shameless skills in saying all the outrageous things everyone’s thinking. 

Since its original premiere in 2008, The Wendy Williams Show has amassed millions of viewers at its daytime slot on Fox operated stations, regularly competing with The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Williams compelled viewers with her daily “Hot Topics,” where she dished on current celebrity gossip with her infamous mug of piping hot tea in hand, and broke the internet with her invasive celebrity interviews. 

Imagine viewers’ surprise when news came out at the beginning of production for season 13 that Williams would no longer be hosting the show. More than that, Willliams posted a video on Instagram, clearly distressed as she told her fans, “All I want to know is where is my money? This is not right and certainly, this is not fair.” 

So, what the hell happened to Wendy’s money? 

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In the wake of recent efforts by hypervisible celebrity women like Britney Spears and Amanda Bynes to hold the forces accountable who deny their ability to command responsibility over their assets and lives, I hope Wendy Williams lovers, haters, and meme-ers, can unite to #FreeWendy’sMoney. 

It’s no secret that, despite all of Williams’s success, she has said and done more than a few morally questionable things, from her days on radio, where she prodded Whitney Houston on the effects of her drug addiction on her family, to saying Beyoncé speaks like she has a fifth grade education, or making fun of actor Joaquin Phoenix’s cleft-like scar. One particularly harrowing incident was Williams’s critique of the #MeToo movement and her support of R. Kelly, who was convicted of sexual abuse. Williams later condemned his actions, calling him a “sick man.” 

Williams has said and done it all, and probably should have been canceled five times over for her offensive commentary. Yet, she found a loyal fanbase in middle-aged women, and an even more enthusiastic marketing scheme as Gen-Zers constantly meme-ify and create viral TikTok audios using her chaotic brand. 

We’ve all seen the embarrassingly funny video of her fainting dressed as Lady Liberty and probably used it to supplement our own wildly unhealthy humor. And of course we all know the classic quote, “She’s an icon, she’s a legend, and she is the moment.” Williams’s face and body are blown up in memes across social media, with her dramatic facial expressions enhanced with editing and altered to keep up the joke. 

Though entertaining, it distantly calls to question what it means when such a visible and outwardly spoken Black woman becomes a caricature so easily manipulated by the public sphere. 

Perhaps the most alluring quality of Wendy Williams is her transparency with her fans. Williams has been open about struggles with her ex-husband, her former issues with substance abuse, and her chronic health conditions

Among these health conditions is Graves’ disease—an autoimmune condition which affects the thyroid—which Williams says is the main cause behind her leaving her beloved show in the fall of 2021. In a video posted to her Instagram account on Feb. 16, 2022, Williams stressed that she was getting better and planned to come back to the show stronger. 

In her absence, Sherri Shepherd, along with guest hosts, are commanding the show. It was announced four days later that Shepherd would take Williams’s show slot for good and replace it with her own talk show, Sherri

On March 23, Williams released another video on her Instagram, where she alleged that Wells Fargo has frozen all of her assets. According to an interview done with Williams’ lawyer for Entertainment Tonight, Williams’ formal financial advisor seeks to prove that Williams is incapacitated and therefore in need of a legal guardianship over her assets. Wells Fargo has opted not to honor her Power of Attorney, which would give her son the right to command her assets. 

We have made her a character, a villain and an icon, but now it’s time to give her the true attention she deserves. Wendy Williams serves as a vital pillar in the talk-show and Black entertainment industry. Though she has devoted nearly 20 years to the art of confidently talking shit, maintaining an audience, and producing her own content, she is still receiving the least amount of attention about a legal issue that could rob her of her assets and agency in the same way white celebrities like Britney Spears and Amanda Bynes were. While they got trending tags on Twitter, there’s very little upheaval over Williams’s situation. 

It’s the end of an era for Wendy Williams, and as people who found something to love in Wendy, from gossip to memes, we should want to take the ride all the way down to support her. Free Wendy’s money, bitch.