Wendy after her xoJane Makeunder. Photo by Lee Clower.
You know you're doing a makeunder with QUEEN OF ALL MEDIA Wendy Williams when some of the first words out of her mouth in reference to her impending shoot are, "Don't try to play me." We don't wanna play you, Wendy, we just wanna make you under!
But the daytime talk show star, radio veteran, best-selling author, and all-around media powerhouse Wendy Williams didn't get where she is by keeping her mouth shut. In a world of overly media trained and sound-bited celebrities who star in 4,000-word interviews without ever saying a damn thing, Wendy Williams keeps it completely real. So real, in fact, that her Wikipedia page has an extensive "controversy" section detailing her multiple celebrity feuds with everyone from 2pac to Will Smith!
Even Jay-Z once rapped, "For the millionth time, askin' me questions, like, Wendy Williams, harrassin' me then get upset when I catch feelings. Can I get a minute to breathe?" Is there any greater evidence of fame than being clocked in a Jay-Z song? We think not.
Aside from blowing up celebrity spots, Wendy is known for her more is more aesthetic, featuring giant wigs ("I do not show my natural hair," she says unequivocally) and glamorous, skintight garb. But since Wendy has spoken so frankly and publicly about her experiences with everything from plastic surgery to drug addiction to weight issues to miscarriages, we wanted to give her a look as revealing and honest as she is.
OK, actually this is just what we do. Makeunder team, Go!
Olivia, Emily, Jane, and I met photographer Lee Clower at the NYC television studio where Wendy shoots her eponymous talk show live each weekday morning. The star had just stepped offset and was having her on-camera makeup removed when we met backstage in her hot pink private dressing room, embellished with a topless painting of Miss Piggy.
It was immediately evident that the star is super-involved in the presentation of her image which, on the one hand -- stunning! On the other hand, we were there on a mission to drag her out of her comfort zone.
Once Wendy took off her TV make-up, we could see that the 47-year-old personality has the kind of flawless skin that can carry any of the tones in her 6 or 7 regular-use wigs. She even has a short "Anna Wintour" wig for the gym -- so glam! Wendy doesn't show her hair beacause it's thinned by her thyroid disease, but she did pull up her wig to give us an "exclusive" look at her natural ponytail.
"When I take it down, it barely covers my head," she says. People always want to know what it's like. It’s a good texture, just thin. I wash and tuck."
First we put Wendy in an oversized turtle neck to offset her barefaced beauty. Then after a bit of coaxing we got her into jeans -- Wendy doesn't do denim -- and a men's white crew neck, a definite change for her. "I like clothes that are contoured to my body," Wendy told us. "I love a slip dress and a pair of Keds."
Specifically, the pointy white Keds reissues that her mom wore in the 60s. Wendy says she bought four pairs in case they go away again. "You can wear these until you are 100 years old."
Natural beauty, Wendy Williams
WHAT WE DID:
Wendy was skeptical of the Makeunder concept at first. "My idea of made under is different than yours," she added. After some negotiating, we convinced Wendy to cut her extensive on-camera beauty regimen down to just four key products.
Using clean fingertips, makeup artist Merrell applied a thin veil of (1)Makeup forever HD Invisible Cover Foundation, adding more around the eyes and nose as needed instead of using concealer. Next up Merrell dusted the apples of Wendy's cheeks with (2)Bare Minerals Blush in Flowers using a medium-sized blush brush. Merrell brought out Wendy's eyes with just a slick of (3)Covergirl LashBlast Mascara in Blackest Black. Finally he coated her lips with (4) a high-shine (unidentified) pink gloss that I begged him to remove. So Wendy's final lip look is the product of residual gloss.
Wendy typically wears wigs, but we decided to have her swap the bombshell waves for something less "done." We were really pulling for something darker, black even, but Wendy wasn't into it. "I don't wear a dark wig," she said matter-of-factly, which is when she broke out the,"You're not going to play me like that." Fair enough!
Hair stylist Antwon went to work on one of Wendy's off-camera wigs, brushing out the waves and creating a soft halo of fly-aways -- beautiful. For the first look he pinned her hair up using just a few bobby pins, allowing the shorter pieces to fall around her face.
As we shot outside the studio, a group of kids from the schoolyard across the street waved and cheered, "We love you, Wendy!"
THE WENDY WILLIAMS BEAUTY INTERVIEW
When do you feel the most beautiful?
Wendy: When I get out of the shower, I like what I see. I think that clothing complicates my body. Even in the most beautiful outfit I feel like, I have on too many clothes. First of all TV adds the weight. And TV bras are so thick, because nipples are offensive. Big breasts, they always want you to push them down to be a flat C. I wear a Playtex Target T-shirt bra. I don’t like bras with lace and embellishments; then it looks like I’m stuffing like I’m in eighth grade. I like them to be thick and old ladyish and pointy. Well, I have breast implants so they stay good.
You are so open about plastic surgery.
Wendy: I’m open about it. But the downside of it is that for women who get it and think it’s a one-time thing, you always have to have your money ready for your corrective surgery. Particularly with breast implants. It's like wheels on a tire. Even if your tire never pops and even if you never get a bubble, even if you have no reason to replace them, you should because the treads thin and when the treads thin you can get a blow-out. I’m trying to change my habits right now and start sleeping on my back, because if you wake up with a deflated breast, you now have to have the same $7,000 to replace them.
Why do you think some people are so judgmental about plastic surgery?
They are jealous. Because if I said to that person, “I got the doctor and I’m going to pay for it. Choose three things you want to do,” believe me, they would get it done. They are very jealous and scared. Scared of what their other friends would say, or to break out of the box and be different. And being black? Ugh, please. My people will not go for any kind of surgery. We are supposed to be natural. Ugh, whatever.
Do you think the same standard goes for hair?
Wendy: Its like a 50/50 thing with women. Some woman prefer natural and then the other 50% prefer something fake going on. And for me, fake includes a color. Blonde is not natural in most of our background's rainbow.
Full blown wigs are looked at as the worst, in terms of hair type fakery. Getting pieces is the first line of acceptability. Then getting a full weave is a second line of acceptability. Then a wig is something that is acceptable for your old aunt, but not for a modern girl. If you do wear a wig, everybody wants you to take off the wig and show your hair. That’s what Tyra did on her show years ago. She did it because she was running out of ideas trying to shock her audience. They always ask me that, too.
The reason I wear the wigs is because my hair is naturally thin. And I have thyroid disease which I was diagnosed with 12 years ago. And thyroid disease thins your natural hair and your eyebrows. It thins all of the hair on your body, along with giving you the eye pop and the scary stare. That’s why I wear wigs. Because the hair I would want is just not what is growing out of my head. If I was a librarian with a smaller personality, then I would keep the hair that I have.
Do you have special rules for dressing your chest?
Wendy: There are no rules for dressing them, but there are more rules for my conduct. I am not the girl you are going to hate because I’m not coming into the room to take your husband. I’m happily married. I lead with a smile and a non-threatening personality. People don’t realize that when you come in and you have something that other women want, they hate you immediately. You have got to disarm them. People are quick not to like either the different girl, then the black girl, then I am the celebrity girl. You learn to have a good giggle and a few other things.
Do you have any favorite products?
Wendy: I never stand over the sink and clean off my face and all that. I like Biore wipes. For moisturizer, I use Cetaphil. I’m a drugstore girl. I don’t use the undereye cream and all that stuff. It’s too much of a routine! You know how you do something once or twice and then the next thing you know you are not doing anything anymore? The only thing I am consistent with is my Clarisonic.
I get a little Botox, I don’t have any now; it's all run out. But I don’t use anything big and special on my face. I thought on my 40th birthday that I needed to start shopping at the makeup counters with the Crème de la Mer. But it's too rich for my blood. In my opinion the beauty world pulls one over on women and doesn’t give our genes enough credit. My mother has nice skin; she’s 76. I truly believe things like stretch marks and cellulite are inherited. I don't have one stretch mark and I gained 100 lbs when I was pregnant. But, I’ve got lots of cellulite. Including on my arms. If I had a choice between either or, I would take the cellulite any day.
What about hair?
I love big hair. Big hair offsets my big body. The bigger the hair, the smaller the hips. Plus I have a small head. As a big girl, you can end up looking snowmanish. Which is why I don’t wear a lot of short hair unless it’s teased out gigantically.
What’s your diet like?
Wendy: A mess. I am not gluten-free or any of that. I eat everything. But I eat everything in moderation. I am not a fan of sweets, but I do want extra anchovies in my Caesar salad. I’m into savory. And hot sauce on everything. I actually have one that I take out when we go out for dinner, because I know that there are some restaurants who only have Tobasco sauce and for some reason they think that’s good enough, and it's not. I have a big bottle in my office and I have a go-to bottle at home. I know it's horrible. It's tacky.
Is there any time that you don’t say exactly what you think?
Wendy: Oh, lots! I only say what I want you to know. I’m very thoughtful with everything that comes out of my mouth, even though it seems otherwise. I’m responsible for protecting the privacy of my son and my husband and my parents and my siblings and my community. Once it's out there, you can never take it back. It can never be yours again.
Since becoming a mom, has your philosophy in approaching your work changed?
Wendy: I've always been into privacy. I didn’t want to pull out of the garage and have someone waiting in the bushes. I didn’t want to be followed to work. Safety to me is the number one concern, or it should be for women.
I had a stalker back in 1991, and he would come up to the radio station and drop off elaborate gifts. When I say elaborate gifts, I mean good chocolate and good flowers in the shape of albums. He would bring things like that to the radio station. Then he started bringing those things to my apartment; he must have followed me home before. Then he was able to finagle past the front door man and was slipping things under my door. He never said he wanted to kill me, but probably worse than that, that he was in love. I was a single woman at that time. Ever since then I know how real it can be.
What do you think when you get compared to Howard Stern?
Wendy: I really like Howard, but Howard is funny vulgar. I’m not that girl. Kathy Griffin is more Howard Stern. I love Kathy, but that’s not me. I don’t feel as though I’m offensive, I feel as though I am just talking and saying. If I say something that offends somebody, I also just said three things offensive about myself. I haven’t said anything about Whitney that I haven’t said about myself. Maybe Lucille Ball with a Howard Stern highlight? A low light of June Cleaver, too.
Wendy before, and after her xoJane makeunder.
*Tune in on Wednesday, May 23rd to catch the 500th episode of "The Wendy Williams Show." Visit www.wendyshow.com for listings.
PHOTOGRAPHER: Lee Clower STYLIST: Deborah Medeiros-Baker MAKEUP: Merrell Hollis HAIR: Antwon Jackson PRODUCER: Julie Schott PHOTO ASSISTANT: Olivia Hall HUGE SPECIAL THANKS TO: Eric Nicholson