She's the kind of media personality that artists love because she builds them up -- and fear because she can bring them down. She's interviewed many of the biggest names in entertainment -- Jennifer Lopez, Whitney Houston, and Queen Latifah among them -- and is known for her ability to disarm and get them to reveal their secrets. Known as both a "shock jock diva" and "the biggest mouth in New York," Wendy Williams is always at the top of her game, whether she's doing color commentary for the VH1 Fashion Awards or giving romantic advice on her daily drive-time show. But there's more to the Queen of Urban Radio than meets the mike. Wendy's Got the Heat is her story -- about growing up in a predominately white suburb, recovering from drug addiction, struggling to launch a successful career in one of the most male-dominated media industries -- and it's by turns painful, hilarious, triumphant, and totally true.
Drug addiction, divorce, miscarriages, infidelity-such is the stuff of gripping biography-but the story of Williams' rise to radio fame is less than the sum of its parts, at least as it's told here. Williams, a deejay on New York R&B and hip-hop station WBLS, is something of a rarity in the industry: a top-rated African-American woman. She relates that she always felt like an outsider: "I was the black girl in a practically all-white school. And among the handful of blacks, I was the 'white girl,' the outcast." But she was sure great things were ahead. "I knew that one day my being different would pay off," she writes. While Williams goes on to explain that her success came through hard work and dedication, she doesn't show the nitty-gritty of her job-how a studio operates, how she came up with her style, what she actually does at work-which is a shortcoming in a book about a radio personality. Instead, Williams offers a very readable but standard-issue confessional autobiography, told in a smooth vernacular; she relates her long-term drug abuse, which began with marijuana in college and progressed to cocaine; her problems with men; her desire for happiness and success. The story might be inspirational for some, but it's not always deeply analytical: her drug use, for example, helps her realize that "getting high with muthafuckas doesn't do anything for you except give people something to talk about or worse. Nobody's going to stick around if something goes down. And nobody's got your back." This is an worthy tale, but it's best suited to serious Williams fans, who will welcome information on her hard-won sobriety, her liposuction and breast implants, her love for her son and her tips for keeping a man.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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August 01, 2004
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Excerpt from Wendy's Got the Heat by Karen Hunter
Chapter One: Wendy from Wayside
What mother and father give their daughter ruby earrings for getting her period? I got my period when I was thirteen. It was one of the most memorable and humiliating experiences I have ever had. I didn't get a box of pads and that little talk with my mother that most people get. No, both my mother and my father (how mortifying) sat me down for the "you're becoming a woman now" speech and afterward they presented me with two 14-karat gold birds with small rubies inside the claws of the birds. I guess the rubies were to signify my period and my passage into womanhood. My period seemed a bigger deal to my parents than it was to me.
I was not raised in a normal household. I'm sure my parents, Shirley and Thomas, will consider themselves the epitome of normal. But to the outside world, in many respects, I had the perfect family. And actually, looking back, I think so, too. I had a wonderful upbringing and I wouldn't trade my parents for any in the world. But...
Remember that song from Electric Company, "Which of these things does not belong here, which of these things is not the same...?" I was the thing that didn't belong in my family. That was what I thought growing up. Today, I know that's not true. I now know that I am definitely my parents' child and I totally fit with everything they tried to instill in us. It just took thirty-something years for me and them to realize it.
My parents worked very hard to give all of us a solid foundation. They worked extremely hard to make sure none of us wanted for anything. That was why we moved to Ocean Township, New Jersey -- Wayside to be exact. We moved there when I was five from Asbury Park, which was going through a rough period following the riots. Moving to Wayside was like the Jeffersons moving to the East Side to a "deluxe apartment in the sky."
Wayside, a middle-class to upper-middle-class section of Ocean Township, was approximately forty-five minutes south of Manhattan on the Jersey Shore. There were people in our neighborhood with lots of money living in big houses. There were people living in big houses with money to live in bigger houses. And then there were people like my parents, who scraped together everything they had to give us the best. Part of the best included living in a nice, safe neighborhood without a lot of transient families. Wayside was usually the last stop for most families -- people rarely moved from there. I had a next-door neighbor, Jackie, who was there when we moved in and was still there when we both graduated from high school and went off to college. She might be still there today for all I know. My parents wanted a sense of permanence for us and Wayside was that place.
My parents always traveled in the "right" circles. They were involved in many social activities and charities. And they had plenty of prominent friends, like Gwendolyn Goldsby Grant, a noted therapist who does an advice column for one of the major black magazines. She pledged AKA with my mother in college.
My parents weren't rich; they practically cut off their wrists for us to live the way we did. In fact, my parents always drove an old car when I was growing up -- the kind you wanted to park down the street or around the corner out of embarrassment. They didn't waste money on showy material things. They saved and sacrificed for things that would advance our family.
We had a nanny/housekeeper, Mrs. Mary Johnson. We didn't have Mrs. Johnson because we were rich. We needed Mrs. Johnson because both of my parents worked and they didn't want us to be latchkey kids. My parents taught all week, graded papers, prepared for meetings and the like; it behooved them to have someone come in and clean and iron, too. So there was always Mrs. Johnson.
But we didn't have it like that. Not like the rich people down the street. They had a live-in nanny and a housekeeper. And those kids down the street were terrible to their help. They would do things like lock their nanny out in the freezing cold with no coat. If we even thought about disrespecting Mrs. Johnson we would get the hell slapped out of us. Besides, Mrs. Johnson did not play that.
My parents struggled so that my sister, brother and I wanted for nothing. We traveled. We shopped. Christmas was always big at our house. A typical Christmas for me would be four pairs of Calvin Klein jeans, a diamond floating heart, a teddy bear with a diamond belly button, lots of gold jewelry and makeup by Est�e Lauder -- never makeup out of a drugstore. My sister would get more of the same, just in smaller sizes. And my brother would get clothes that might include a whole collection of Izod shirts -- one for every day of the week. My mother, though, was the queen of the discount shopping and while she would spend money, she would also wait until things went on sale.