Type: Controversial Essays
Sample donated: Derrick Nunez
Last updated: February 27, 2019
One of the most talked about person in our day is a person who spends most of her day talk about other people.
That person is Wendy Williams. Today we know her from her extremely controversial TV show, The Wendy Williams Show, where she partakes in doing full coverage of a wide range of topics that includes politics, current events, and more; however, her main topic is celebrity gossip. Through this she has made a name for herself internationally.
She is known for being extremely personal on the show she gives her own strong opinion on celebrities’ lives. She also gives a lot of details about her own life, and gives advice based on the life and actions of the celebrities she is covering. Wendy loves to center the show around herself, she doesn’t co-host. The basic format of her show includes herself at the center, the studio audience, and sometimes A to D list celebrities. Wendy Williams was not always the superstar she is today. In 1964, Wendy was born in the suburbs of New Jersey (Williams).
She then went on to attended Northeastern University, and graduated in 1986 with a degree in communications. She started her road to radio stardom after graduation, when she started to work at a station in Virgin Islands. Shortly after, she moved to was on to New York. There, Wendy notes that was she eventually fired for being a loose cannon.
“It’s been mostly, ‘Read these liners, and play the hits’ and ‘You’re saying too much’ and ‘Shut the hell up,'” Williams has stated about her job at the New York station during her interviews, and in her book based on her life, that was also a New York Times Best Seller, The Wendy William Experience. Williams next move was to Philadelphia, where she worked for three years. To then eventually return to Manhattan for a job at WBLS. There, Williams there got the freedom she wanted, because she showed throughout her career that she didn’t need to DJ to bring in about 781,000 New York–area listeners per day (How New York’s Shock Jockette Got Supersized). Her radio show was one that people often compared to the caliber of Howard Stern. She would talk about her own personal life.
She often did this a way to establish pathos with her viewers, because she would bring up personal experience when talking about beingbring addicted to cark, having miscarriages, and her plastic surgery. Wendy Williams was compared to shock-jock Howard Stern, and often called a shock-jackette. To add to this comparison, she called herself “The Queen of All Media” in homage to Stern’s title “King of All Media”. Williams was known for saying it how it is, which is how she describes herself, and was unafraid to do that on the radio when talking to her listeners. At the end point of her radio career Wendy Williams was getting about “1.7 million people tune in to her syndicated program” (Zarya). Her guests often time cited how much they enjoyed her looseloss cannon style interview style.
In 2003, Williams and Whitney Houston went at it on-air as the show’s host asked the singer about her drug history. This interview lead to Whitney Houston calling Wendy outside to fight. Williams made no apologies for her interview style, and said “My bark is worse than my bite…by being tall and outgoing, people mistake that for being overpowering, overbearing, loud and being a bully,” Williams The New York Times.To add to Williams’s success on the radio, she authored a pair of New York Times bestsellers, and eventually got television show, which she was always dreaming of doing. In the summer of 2008, she began the trail run of her TV that we know today.
The program’s ratings motivated network to run of the show the following summer. In November 2008, while waiting for the premiere of her new program, Williams was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame.On July 13, 2009, Williams debuted her new television program.
The show drew from her radio show’s format, mixing in celebrity dirt, celebrity interviews and advice to audience members. Several weeks later, on July 31, 2009, she announced her retirement from radio. On November 19, 2009, Williams’ producer announced that the show was confirmed for the 2011-12 season, and then “The Wendy Williams Show” has then been renewed through the 2019-20 television season on the Fox Television Stations, stated by Debmar-Mercury. The show has gone on to become the most watched shows in daytime television, and has been nominated for multiples Emmys. One aspect of the success that Wendy plays apart in is her work with controversy. She is known to be controversial, and not scared to be so.
In an interview she stated, “that she is not scared to be wrong”. This is a reason that she has so many views; however, there is a lot more than that. There is a lot of cultural work done by the Ms. Wendy Williams.
How come her diverse audience of appreciate Wendy’s say it how you mean it attitude? How come Wendy is able to engage her audience with talks about race and be validated as the black voice of daytime television? How have younger audiences reacted to her more traditionalist statements, and does her more conservative audience react to her more liberal statements? Lastly, does being a shock jock and “saying it how you mean it” makes you seem right and entertaining, and why do audiences gravitate toward these types of people? Description of her hot topics segment and analysis Part of the Wendy Williams appeal is the charm she brings during her famous Hot Topic section of the show. The Hot Topic section of the show is where she covers popular topics, not limited to celebrity news only but mainly focused on celebrities. This is the starting segment to all her shows. It usually starts from her walking out of double door and then, in a very smiley way, she stands, and uses she trademark slogan “How you doin” while using both hands to flutter, like puppy dog when they are on standing on their hind legs. The camera then goes and focus on the live audience, which plays a key aspect in this is scream and replies with the same hand motions, and says “how you doin back”. This is important because she call her audience her co-host, and in the frame of her studio audience one can start to her demographic. If one freeze framed one can start to see her audience is mainly females of all races.After the camera goes back to Wendy, she then says a variation of “Great now that I’m here with you”.
The audience is now in an uproar as she moves to oversized chair. The camera then focuses on the audience, and we can see them having a what appears to be a good time, because they are seemingly happy and dancing. By this time the camera would do some close-up shoots, and the male reoccurring figure in the audience are usually males that in some degree have a type of queerness performativity. Though the fashion, non-verbal language, and crowns worn. The female in the audience are usually of all ages, dressed nice. Some look more urban, out on the town fashion, while others are plainer, and lastly some are fancily dressed up.
Then the camera centers on Wendy in her pink chair. Wendy is usually sitting in front of a large multi-screen TV. This where she says for the whole segment. Once the camera focuses on her she calms her audience down, and she goes right into it. The screen is usually used as a basic visual aid. For example, if she is talking about Selena she will show a picture of her. While Wendy is talking about the story, the camera usually goes between her and the audience.
The glimpse of the audience allows for when to see them part take in gossip behavior, agree non-verbally with Wendy, allow us to see their reactions, and also if she is talking about say a black man the camera will then go to a black man. Wendy Williams is extremely a loose cannon. She will often go off script, have dialogue with the audience, comment on what she sees, and ask them to clap when they partake in something. Wendy’s show is basically her having a conversation with the studio audience, but more of her talking and the audience bring good listeners and proving non-verbal feedback. Every time Wendy makes intense statements the audience claps, and if they don’t vibe with what she says, she will often explain herself some more.
When Wendy covers stories, she starts with the visual on the screen behind her, she explains the story. After she explains, the story she goes into an analysis of what she thinks, and then she back up what she thinks by using her personal life, or a theoretical what if. For example, she explained how Selena Gomez’s parents don’t want Justin Bieber to come over, and then says that “when she was young she was would have just not have gone, because she would have believed in love” said Wendy in the hot topic segment titled: Kris Jenner: Helicopter Mom. She is looking closely at the lives of the celebrities to use her analytical model when talking about celebrities. This model is basically her using the story she is covering to draw life lessons from them.
She then applies these lessons to her life or the life of the audience, often time using her own personal antidote is to reform her theory that she developed from the story she covered. Furthermore, she all over the place, sometimes she will go into talking about what TV shows she watched over the weekend, and draw from other stories to make compressions. Another aspect of Wendy Williams is that she speaks with a lot of body language, and facial expressions. These expressions can be considered to be seen more in African American communities. These facials and hand expressiosn is a way for Wendy to be more lively, but when compared to Ellen DeGeneres, Kelly Ripa, and other talk show host Wendy takes the cake for being the most animated. This allows Wendy to be able to perform her blackness, and in sense fit into the stereotype of being the angry black women. She stated in her interview with Valentina Zarya for Fortune Magazine, say that she didn’t care about what people think as long as they watch her.
Academic research states that, “Similarly, Weisbuch et al. reported that exposure to television characters exhibiting pro-White (versus pro-Black) nonverbal behaviors was sufficient to increase race-based automatic associations, so that Black people were more easily paired to negative features” (CASTELLI, LUIGI, et al). This is important to note because when people are watching Wendy Williams they are experiencing Wendy’s blackness. Some people she might be the only black person that they see on TV. Wendy is big on talking about race and its important to highlight that she has a big impact, because the way she uses her body language is often associated with negative feature, such as Wendy’s tall stature. When Wendy is talking about things that work her up, she uses body language that has been stereotyped as the angry black women.
Some of these examples are the faces of disgust that she’s uses or pointing aggressively . The big difference between Wendy and her white counterparts is that when Wendy does those actions, she is seen as angry while her white counterparts are not. Black nonverbal communication of such negative nonverbal behaviors was also explicitly considered less friendly and gave rise to more negative implicit biases. Furthermore, another study said that, “African American and European American participants in the present study were more used to seeing African American and White individuals daily than were individuals in other parts of the country may have been. Also, the sample varied widely in their exposure to Black and White individuals and various aspects of American and African American culture while growing up” (Wickline).
Meaning that people outside Wendy’s group see Wendy’s body language, because it is a type o performance that enhances her show, but they also have a scene of mimicry in that same tone. On the other hand, to her black audience members, she is seen more as normal and regular because they are a part of the same in-group. Another study that used thirty Black and thirty White American judges to understand how nonverbal behavior displayed by White and Black Americans determined their response. The control group of Judges got to see 20 second clips of silent videotape of an interaction between White and Black people, and they got to rate how aggressive they are. “Correlations between judges’ nonverbal ratings and targets’ scores on a response latency measure of racial bias (i.e., Implicit Association Test, 1AT) as well as on a self- report racial bias measure (i.e.
, Affective Prejudice Scale) were obtained. Results revealed that relative to White judges, Black judges’ nonverbal behavioral ratings were better predictors of both White individuals’ IAT and explicit racial bias scores, but only if those targets were engaged in an interracial dyad. The results are consistent with recent research finding that subtle forms of racial bias leak through nonverbal behavior, as well as with work noting the predictive accuracy of judgments made from thin-slices of nonverbal behavior” (Richeson, Jennifer, Shelton).
However, Williams also does not fit the standard of an angry, black woman. She is very poised and composed in the way she presents her stories, and rarely raises her voice in an aggressive manner. Instead, she often sits cross-legged at a chair, where she sips on tea and gives out unrefined, baseless opinions, which comes across as misinformed, rather than aggressive in many ways. For this reason, while some may use the argument that criticism against her is unwarranted because it draws from racially charged stereotypes of the Black woman, it is not an objective truth, but rather a theory that uses race as a shield is ignore poor journalism from a woman of color.Shock Jock analysis”A Radio Shock Jock Who’s Ready for TV” by Monica Drake is one of the headlines about Wendy Williams. Wendy Williams became popular due to her Say It How You Mean it Attitude. She would tell her audience member intense advice, and have full blown interviews where she asked the questions everyone was thinking.
A notable interview is the one when Whitney Houston asked Wendy to fight her. Another example is that Williams called Omarosa a “typical angry black woman” and advised Omarosa that cosmetic injections could fix her wrinkles. It is worth noting that in saying things like these, she is using the arguments used against her, to bring down those she does not agree with. In examples like these, Williams continually spouts damaging ideas like these, which only hurt Black women in the media, including herself. However, because Williams is privileged in having a successful talk show, and is essentially immune to many of the trials other Black women in the industry face, she disregards how destructive stating things like this could be, even to people who are also harmful like Omarosa.
Hayes, Joy Elizabeth, and Zechowski cited in their study of shock jock, “Shock jocks drew on a long tradition of intimate and aggressive talk over the radio and attracted largely male audiences with self-consciously vulgar jokes, racist and sexist commentary, and talk about sex, bodily functions, culture, and politics”. Wendy talks about all these topics and has about one controversy per month. Sometimes Wendy is extremely traditional, by saying that girls should not be getting in male’s tour bus, because they could be raped, and sometimes she is a radical and says that there is a race war in the United States. These controversies that Williams conjures up are not always commendable however. In many cases, the unsubstantiated claims she makes only harms the viewbase and damages the mindset of women and men alike who watch her show. For example, in one segment, she says that rising star Tinashe will not be able to make it in the music business because of Rihanna and Beyonce already taking up the slots for African American women in the pop limelight. This kind of regressive tone hinders the strides towards diversity the music industry is shifting to.
By disregarding Tinashe’s potential as an artist because she is African American like Rihanna and Beyonce, she influences watchers to ignore Tinashe and continue only paying attention to mainstream Black female artists, while helping to close off more diversity in the industry. In setting this “quota” of only having two female African American singers, she is putting out a regressive concept which viewers will accept as fact, and continue to perpetuate this harmful idea.Furthermore, Williams’s attitude of “say it how you mean it” can also just be seen as an excuse to pardon harmful ideas. It is not always about being straightforward, rather, it is about garnering ratings. By trash talking and mudslinging popular celebrities, Williams can build her brand by leeching off of the fame that these big celebrities bring, and slandering them.
Many times, her claims are unsubstantiated and uninformed. It would be a disservice to the journalism industry to call Williams a “journalist” since she does not actually do any work herself. She simply takes her team’s word for it, and maybe reads a tabloid or two, and spouts information that is simply not true. She then guises this gossip as her opinion where she says what she feels like saying. In no way does that justify the toxic behavior of slandering artists, actors, and other celebrities for her own personal gain. Attitudes like these exist in other realms too. For example, many Trump supporters gravitated to him because of his “say it like you mean it” attitude.
His unabashed, candid approach to attacking minority groups and other politicians was met with controversy, but ended up allowing him to reach the presidency. The idea that being venomous with words can be justified because of being direct and straightforward is a harmful idea; one which manifests itself constantly in other areas of American culture, even as high as the presidency itself. With Williams having the number one rated talk show in America, she continues to push these ideas out there, perpetuating the abolishment of any kind of political correctness, which exists to prevent the verbal oppression of marginalized groups, many of which are her fans. This is possibly another reason as to why people find her so appealing, yet so divisive and controversial. She uses this toxic pedestal to attract those who want to latch onto the idea that slander is entertaining, yet do not want the backlash of saying it themselves. Similar to Trump supporters, the two groups use Trump and Williams as their voices, yet they will not say these things themselves, because they know that they are wrong and disrespectful.
It is ways like these that Williams’s approach to daytime television is both vapid, but also harmful to the viewbase who watches daily, since they assume Williams is truthful and informed, when in reality, she is only saying things to keep ratings high. This kind of attitude is the perfect representation for the malicious sentiment pop culture, and American culture in general, has devolved into. The executives that picked up Wendy’s show said “It sounds simple enough. But in the uneven terrain of unscripted daytime television, populated by stern judges and sisterly confabs, this shock jock of urban radio fills no obvious niche. The show’s creators expressed confidence, though, that once the audience meets her, she will carve out one of her own” (Drake). This shows public enjoyment of people who are shock jocks.
Wendy’s audience is huge in a lot of conservative area. This is due to the fact that Wendy gives them a lot of things to talk, and she also makes statements that more conservative people such as the one about girl not going to sketchy places. “examine the rights and responsibilities of those listening” and such a “simple switch of focus opens up surprisingly far-reaching speculations about the guarantee of plurality in modern political society”