Unabashedly bold, radio personality Wendy Williams concocted an irresistibly alluring guilty pleasure for listeners who tuned in to her midday drive radio show, The Wendy Williams Experience, on WBLS FM in New York City. Two parts salaciousness, one part pop culture trivia, and a dash of sage advice sprinkled with spicy celebrity gossip, the show–hosted by the self-titled “queen of all media”–quickly shot to the top, ranking No. 1 in New York City in the 25–54 age group.
Perhaps marking the zenith of her career, Williams, a 23-year broadcast veteran, was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in August, on the heels of announcing her departure from radio in July. Also a best-selling author, Williams is parlaying her brand into daytime television with The Wendy Williams Show after a successful six-week trial run. But beneath her signature biting humor and brazen candor is a shrewd businesswoman and advocate. The 45-year-old New Jersey native talked to Black Enterprise about her passion to reduce youth violence and her mission to give back to teens in her hometown.
You’ve talked about youth violence on your radio show, and shared that you will start a not-for-profit organization to address the problem. Why are you passionate about this issue?
The streets are bad and gang violence is horrible. Teenage girls are getting pregnant, the molestation of our young girls is ridiculous and it sends them into a lot of the problems that we see facing society now. The crime committed by young boys, particularly of the minority persuasion, is sending them to jail faster and leaving single parent households and young girls and women to fend for themselves. I don’t want to sound like ‘old Mrs. Jenkins,’ but kids are not like they used to be. I want to help educate young girls on taking control of their bodies and using birth control. I want to tell these young boys that there’s more to life than being a rapper or a basketball player.
Is this why you partnered with the Asbury public schools district in New Jersey in September?
I want to use my voice to let these young people know that they’re not forgotten. That’s my hometown and in 1970 there were horrible riots in Asbury Park and Newark, and my parents elected to move our family to Ocean Township [New Jersey]. In Asbury Park, there have been years where there’s been such a lack of interest in schools that they haven’t been able to have enough boys to be on a football team, because everybody’s caught up in some mess. I am just another voice, but I do represent the voice of a mother, of a boy, who happens to be a black boy. And I am very concerned for his future. In addition to this I have a communications scholarship for girls who are seniors in high school and are college bound. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s what I could afford and it’s my way of giving back.