In her downtown Manhattan dressing room, packed with glittery portraits of herself, Wendy Williams is crying for Kanye West. It’s an afternoon in late November shortly after the rap star has checked himself into an L.A. hospital, following reports of a mental breakdown. Williams speaks about how she knew his mother, and then she gets verklempt. “It’s very sad,” Williams says, with tears streaming down her cheeks.
If the moment had been taped for her syndicated “The Wendy Williams Show,” it would have gone viral. No-nonsense dish has been the secret to Williams’ success — first on the radio and now on TV. In a challenging post-Oprah daytime market with casualties from Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper, “The Wendy Williams Show” is humming along in its eighth season, still going strong in the ratings.
Unlike Ellen DeGeneres or Kelly Ripa, Williams’ show doesn’t only bank on A-list bookings (although she has them). Roughly 2 million viewers tune in every day to hear Williams share her thoughts on the latest celebrity scandals from the Kardashians to the Real Housewives. In that spirit, Williams talked to Variety about the 9 biggest pop culture stories of 2016.
1. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie get divorced
“I was pissed off, because I heard about it on a weekend, so I couldn’t get back right away to talk to my constituents. I get upset when celebrities do weird things when I’m off. A relationship is like a car. You ride until the wheels fall off. They were together 12 years. It was longer than I thought they’d last, because they got together under ill-gotten circumstances.”
2. Beyonce releases “Lemonade”
“If ‘Lemonade’ is Beyonce’s story, then good; I love a good story. I don’t think there was anything original about it. I grew up in a generation where my mom said, ‘When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.’ But now every time we see a girl with a lemon dress, it’s equated with Beyonce. I had blonde wigs before I even knew who Beyonce was. But now when people see that on social media, they say, ‘She’s got her Beyonce on.’ I guess the power of Beyonce is fantastic — it’s just a little too fantastic for the generation of beehives that are following her, because I don’t think they thought life existed before Beyonce.”
3. Taylor Swift briefly dates Tom Hiddleston
“I don’t care about Taylor Swift or her relationships. Taylor definitely strikes me as a mean girl. Hiddleswift — whatever. I don’t even know who that man was. Do you know what he got from her? He got to be in Hot Topics. And I took a poll in my audience, and three people clapped. Nobody knew who he was.”
4. After Kim Kardashian is robbed, Kanye West loses it
“I interviewed his mom Donda on the radio. Those of us with moms don’t know what it’s like to lose a mom. And she lost her life at the hands of allegedly the plastic surgery, which was a treat from her son. The amount of guilt. When I first heard about Kim, I thought — this guy needs to get off tour and go home to his wife. Kanye was always special before meeting her, and she never saw it. She went with it, and now that’s hers. My opinion is, they need to stay out of the public spotlight for two years. Let’s stop whoring out the situation. Someone should have pulled Kayne aside a long time ago, but they didn’t. Poor man. I’ve been calling him a madman for years, because of his odd behavior, and now it’s come to fruition.”
5. Ryan Lochte’s robbery tale
“Speaking of redemption, this is how you do it. He did that stupid mess in Brazil, he lied, but he came back here and married himself a good woman. He’ll be on Wheaties boxes by 2017.”
6. Billy Bush fired from “Today”
“What about him? I didn’t hear Billy Bush say one wrong thing. I heard Donald Trump say everything and I heard Billy laugh along awkwardly at a grown-up billionaire making lewd comments back in 2005, when Bush was a reporter trying to grow his bones. In my mind, Bush was compromised. I didn’t hear Billy Bush say he was fine cupping a woman’s vagina. I don’t think he should have been fired, but if someone is going to be collateral damage, we all know who gets it — the last one hired.”
7. Leslie Jones targeted by online bullies
“Leslie Jones needs to stop reading comments. Leslie Jones needs to stop taking nude photos. I love Leslie Jones.”
8. Mariah Carey launches a reality show for E!
“Mariah has a lot of spoiled, childish tendencies. They might be cute when she first came out, but Mariah is now 46. I think a reality show is way beneath her. What are you doing? It’s for people who need relevance and recognition. Mariah, do you need the money? I’m not thinking she needs the money. Why is she doing this? You’re so enamored by people being enamored with you. But you’re lying around in glittery leotards with seven-inch pumps and you’re no longer 30, girl.”
9. Katy Perry gets serious with Orlando Bloom
“Don’t care so much. I feel like Katy Perry is a serial girlfriend. She doesn’t hop around. Kate Perry is only 32. Listen, she’s kept herself pure with no kids for all those years. What does she want with a divorcée with a kid? Katy Perry is not my type. But do you know what I love about her? ‘Teenage Dream.’ It’s one of my top 10 favorite songs in life.”