Celebrities who keep a grateful heart and don’t let their fame go to their head are smart cookies because it’s a sure way to keep faithful and happy fans.
Just ask Wendy Williams.
The popular talk show host of “The Wendy Williams Show” is zipping around the country this month, hitting 10 cities, including Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago and — yes — Philly to thank fans for helping her reach her 10th season. The on-the-road show features an evening of fan favorites, including her signature “Hot Topics” and “Ask Wendy” segments. The 10-city show tour is also meant to promote her new season. “The Wendy Williams Show” will premiere Sept. 10 at 10 a.m. on WTXF Fox 29.
Since we lucked out with Philly on the tour, my daughter and I were able to score two tickets to the show to help Wendy launch Season 10!
Wendy’s Philly launching event was held at The Fillmore, the well-known multi-faceted music venue in the Fishtown section of the city off of Girard Avenue on Allen Street. The night began at 6 p.m., even though Wendy didn’t make her debut until 8. Just like her talk show in New York City, tickets to the Philly event were complimentary. The nice thing about Wendy is that she didn’t have everyone just hanging around, twiddling their thumbs until she came out on stage, as usually happens at these kinds of occasions. Instead, it was just as exciting of an event leading up to her appearance as when the queen of the NYC talk show world actually came out on the stage!
Although outside of the venue there was a long wait-list line of people hoping to get in at the last minute due to no-shows, the ticket-holding audience looked as if it barely numbered a few hundred. A DJ was inside spinning Wendy’s favorite tunes, while guests walked a red carpet, lined with some life-sized cardboard cutouts of Wendy, going inside the venue. To please her fans even more, each guest was given two tickets to use at the bar for two free drinks of their choice. (Go, Wendy!)
Fans were greeted inside by Wendy’s Glam Squad, professionals who were ready to make the audience TV-ready by doing their hair, makeup and even nails! There was an ample amount of the professionals, so no one waited in line for more than 10 minutes to get their beauty treatments!
Thankfully, my daughter is a Wendy Williams fan, so she was able to cue me in on how various things that we saw going on at this Season 10 launch related to the actual show. If she hadn’t been there as my guide, I probably would have been clueless about the majority of happenings there.
We both decided against getting nail treatments because we didn’t feel like being careful with our hands while our nails were drying. My daughter opted to get her hair and her makeup done by the beauty professionals.
“When else could we get professional makeovers by actual professional makeup artists who do faces for TV?” she asked rhetorically, as she nudged me to get into line.
I opted to skip the hair stations, mostly because I was just too hot to have someone twirling a curling iron around my head, and only get my makeup done.
I came straight from spending a 10-hour day at my computer, so the makeup professionals had their work cut out for them with me in their chair.
“I hope you have some super-duper coverup for under-eye bags,” I half-joked with my makeup professional. “Please make my eyes glitter and shine!”
After we were beautified, while sipping cocktails, all courtesy of Wendy, we headed to the Selfie Station, where we got to pick props for a photo shoot with complimentary copies of the photos sent to our phones and computers (thanks again, Wendy!). For photo props, we chose a glittery Wendy microphone, sparkly ’60s-style eyeglasses, a Wendy Show coffee mug and her signature line, “How you doin’?” in a cardboard speech bubble on a stick.
Just like the studio audience of her talk show is showered with giveaways, so was this Philly show audience. Those who arrived on time were given Wendy Season 10 T-shirts.
When Wendy Williams Hunter finally came out on stage, the audience went wild and gave her a warm Philly welcome. The cameras rolled and filmed the show.
Half-a-dozen audience members were chosen to “Ask Wendy” questions for her advice. I think some of the questions were asked for shock value, but the queen of “dishing tea” was unphased, and, I think, she even surprised the askers some by giving them old school, common sense advice and probably not the answers for which they had hoped. On all her shows, she refers to audience members affectionately as her “co-hosts” and always has them actively participate in some of each segment.
I learned a lot about Wendy Williams that night that she was in town. In addition to being an actress, bestselling author and talk show host, Williams was a radio DJ in New York and Philly. Although she was born and raised in Asbury Park, N.J., and got her start on the radio in the Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C., Williams played up her Philadelphia connection to the audience. Williams related that those years that she spent here were good ones for her. She threw in some places that she remembered, referring to the Main Line and saying she used to buy her wigs on Cheltenham Avenue. Every time that she would make a reference to a specific place in Philly, the audience would applaud and cheer loudly.
She said that she came to Philly as a single woman after accepting a job as an on-air disc jockey at Power 99 in the 1990s. She stayed until 2001, when she returned to New York City. During the four years that she spent in Philly, she met her husband, Kevin Hunter Sr., who’s now also her manager, had two miscarriages and gave birth to her only son, Kevin Hunter Jr., who will start college this fall. Williams credits the Philly chapter of her life for her personal growth and her gain in confidence as a strong woman. She again drew thundering applause of approval when she said that she always liked the people here because “they’re real” and they “tell it like it is.”
During the casual talk portion of the show, Williams brought up her decade-long battle with cocaine. She spoke about the opioid epidemic with the audience and said that her family is helping in their own way with the Hunter Foundation. The nonprofit provides grants for drug prevention, education and rehabilitation programs.
I left the Fillmore that night with little doubt about why Wendy Williams is successful. Her talk show has been nominated for five Daytime Emmy Awards and regularly competes with “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” as the top-ranked syndicated talk show in the key demographic of women 25 to 54. The show mainly discusses tabloid headlines, national trends and celebrity news, all in a fun, girlfriend-like format. I overheard a lot of audience members say that night that they wanted to come to the show because they watched “The Wendy Williams Show” for years, they admired her spunk and perseverance or they felt close to her because they relate to so many of the same challenges that she has faced.
We’re really fortunate, living in the Philly area, that most of the talk shows filmed in NYC are a mere train, car or bus ride away. Back in the day, when Kelly and Ryan was Kelly and Regis, my husband and I once made the trek to the Big Apple, and it was memorable fun. I always thought of going again to Wendy Williams or Rachel Ray or even “The View.” Tickets are free, and it’s an interesting little day trip to make. But having Wendy come to us in Philly was way better, much easier and just as exciting. Although, instead of getting the thought of a day trip to a talk show out of my system, it inspired me to make the little jaunt again up to a show in the next year or so. We’re too close, and it’s too much fun not to make the effort!
Best of luck to Wendy Williams on Season 10! Take it from one who knows that it’s an extremely tough market out there — lasting this long is a tremendous accomplishment.
How YOU doin’, Wendy? I think you’re doing absolutely amazing!