Home National News Wendy Williams controversy: Inside dementia, explosive documentary, family war to visit talk show queen

Wendy Williams controversy: Inside dementia, explosive documentary, family war to visit talk show queen

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Wendy Williams controversy: Inside dementia, explosive documentary, family war to visit talk show queen

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Concerns over Wendy Williams’ health peaked this week ahead of an un-released docuseries exploring the life of the former talk show host who reportedly hasn’t been seen by her own family in years.

On Thursday, a representative issued a statement on Wendy’s behalf to “correct inaccurate and hurtful rumors about her health,” and said the former talk show host was diagnosed with “primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD)” in 2023.

Williams has largely remained out of the spotlight since her self-titled show was canceled in June 2022, but a new Lifetime documentary attempted to capture Wendy’s comeback as she launched a podcast career, only to witness her struggles with alcohol addiction and health issues.

The crew stopped filming in April 2023 when Wendy entered a facility to allegedly treat “cognitive issues” reportedly due to alcohol abuse, and her family claimed in an interview with People magazine that they solely communicate with Wendy through a court-appointed legal guardian.

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Wendy Williams talk show host

Wendy Williams’ family has concerns for her health amid upcoming documentary and dementia diagnosis.  (Getty Images)

“The people who love her cannot see her,” Wendy’s sister Wanda told People. “I think the big [question] is: How the hell did we get here?”

“We’ve all seen the images over the last few months — and, really, few years — of what has seemed like a spiral for my aunt,” her niece, Alex Finnie, said. “It was shocking and heartbreaking to see her in this state.”

While chatting with the women on “The View” on Thursday, Finnie admitted Williams can’t be directly contacted by family and Wendy is required to call them from a blocked number. 

“She went into where she is now between April and May of last year,” Finnie said. “We went months before we were finally able to get a call.” 

She added, “I say this honestly, we went through birthdays, we went through the holidays, we went through illness. There was a period when my grandfather was in the hospital — there was no way to contact her and let her know what was going on with her 93-year-old father.”

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During one scene of the “Where is Wendy Williams?” documentary, Williams asked her driver to take her to the former studio where she hosted her daily talk show. She had forgotten they had driven past the studio only moments before.

Wendy Williams steps out in New York wearing fur coat

Wendy’s strayed from the public eye, and is reportedly under the care of a court-appointed guardian. (Getty Images)

“I don’t know what the hell is going on,” her driver said in the clip, per People. “I think she’s losing memory. She doesn’t know who I am sometimes.”

A statement released on Thursday revealed Wendy is suffering from frontotemporal dementia.

“Over the past few years, questions have been raised at times about Wendy’s ability to process information and many have speculated about Wendy’s condition, particularly when she began to lose words, act erratically at times, and have difficulty understanding financial transactions,” the statement said.

“In 2023, after undergoing a battery of medical tests, Wendy was officially diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Aphasia, a condition affecting language and communication abilities, and frontotemporal dementia, a progressive disorder impacting behavior and cognitive functions, have already presented significant hurdles in Wendy’s life.”

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Specialists at Weill Cornell Medicine are credited as part of her “current care team” who help Wendy “receive the medical care she requires.”

Wendy Williams and ex husband Kevin Hunter pose together

Williams was married to Kevin Hunter for 21 years before they divorced in 2019 after she found out he fathered another child while they were married. (Getty Images)

“The decision to share this news was difficult and made after careful consideration, not only to advocate for understanding and compassion for Wendy, but to raise awareness about aphasia and frontotemporal dementia and support the thousands of others facing similar circumstances,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, many individuals diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia face stigma and misunderstanding, particularly when they begin to exhibit behavioral changes but have not yet received a diagnosis.

“Wendy is still able to do many things for herself. Most importantly she maintains her trademark sense of humor and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed. She is appreciative of the many kind thoughts and good wishes being sent her way.”

Most notably, actor Bruce Willis was diagnosed in 2022 with the brain disorder which affects communication. FTD is “the result of damage to neurons in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain,” according to the National Institute on Aging. “Many possible symptoms can result, including unusual behaviors, emotional problems, trouble communicating, difficulty with work, or difficulty with walking.”

Wendy’s public health battles began years ago. Williams began her journey in the entertainment industry in the ’90s on radio airwaves before making her television debut with her self-titled talk show in 2008.

Wendy Williams poses next to star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Williams received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019. (Getty Images)

Before long, Williams’ alcohol addiction behind the scenes became an issue on live television. “She would be drunk on air,” a source told People. “Slowly, we started being like, ‘What’s going on with her?’”

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She claimed a fainting episode while dressed as the Statue of Liberty in 2017 was due to her Graves disease. By 2019, Williams revealed past issues with a cocaine addiction lead her to living in a sober facility.

“You know me for being a very open and honest person. You know Kevin and I have the Hunter Foundation for the good of the people and we recently launched out 888-HUNTER number for people who are in the struggle of addiction. Well, for some time now, and even today and beyond, I have been living in a sober house,” she said during a 2019 episode of her show.

“When you see me come to work glammed up, right after the show, I do Pilates … You know I’ve had a struggle with cocaine in the past,” she said. “I never went to a place to get treatment. I don’t know how. God was just sitting on my shoulder and I just stopped … there are people in your family, it might be you … I want you to know more of the story.”

Wendy Williams and son Kevin Jr. attend Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony

Wendy has one son, Kevin Jr., with her ex-husband. (Getty Images)

At the same time, Williams filed for divorce from her husband of 21 years, Kevin Hunter, after discovering he had fathered a child with another woman. Wendy and Kevin have one son together, Kevin Jr.

“[Wendy’s mom] Shirley, may she rest in peace, would always remind me that your aunt would trade everything that she has — every dime, every car, every wig — to be able to have a strong loving household and a loving husband,” Alex told People. “That was ripped from her right after her son had to go off to college [in 2018]. Emotionally, it was just a lot. It was too much for her world.”

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The pandemic also hit Williams hard, and she was forced to take a hiatus from the show to receive treatment for Graves’ disease symptoms in May 2020, and returned to television in September. 

“Recently, Wendy has been dealing with symptoms from her Graves’ disease, which is causing fatigue. In consultation with her doctor and as a precautionary measure, she will be taking some time off as she continues to receive treatment,” a spokesperson from “The Wendy Williams Show” said in a statement at the time.

Wendy never returned to her show. In 2022, a legal guardian was appointed over her finances and health, and court documents were sealed. Wendy later filed a temporary restraining order against Wells Fargo asking the court to “reopen any frozen accounts or assets” and grant Williams “access to any and all accompanying statements.”

According to Williams’ filings to the court, the bank’s move reportedly came after Williams’ former financial adviser alleged that Williams “was of unsound mind.”

She once lived in a sober home while working on “The Wendy Williams Show” to treat addiction issues. (Getty Images)

“All I know is that Wendy and her team walked into the courtroom one way, and they walked out, and the family is completely excluded,” Wanda told People. Meanwhile, in response to ABC News, Wells Fargo shared a statement, writing, “This matter was conducted under seal. Any claims against Wells Fargo have been dismissed.”

In February 2023, sources told Page Six it appeared as though Wendy was filming a “mystery project” when she appeared at the trendy Fresco by Scotto restaurant with “approximately 30 people in the crew. Lights, cameras, audio, producers, etc. [It] looked like a reality show.”

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“How did she go from this aunt or sister that we love and is healthy one minute to this person who’s in and out of the hospital?” Wanda said. “How is that system better than the system the family could put in place? This system is broken.”

Williams’ son reportedly came under scrutiny for his spending but, in the documentary, denies that he ever exploited her. “I’ve never taken [money] without her consent,” he said, per People.

Wendy Williams smiles as she leaves dinner in Manhattan

Williams was spotted in New York in February 2023, her last major public outing. (Getty Images)

“I said [to the producers], ‘No, she’s not coming back up because she needs to get better,’” Kevin Jr. said in the documentary. “I made sure that business was always on the back burner and that health was the number one priority.” 

Wanda added, “There is not a person in this family who doesn’t want the same thing for Wendy, and that is her health.” Her niece, Alex, said, “She can’t wait to start the next chapter of her life.”

During a Good Morning America interview, Alex was asked if there were any worries from the family that Wendy may be exploited by this documentary, Alex didn’t hesitate to respond.

“My aunt is executive producer of this documentary,” Alex told Good Morning America. “When I finally talked with her, and I said to her, ‘Aunt Wendy, why do you want to do this? You know, you’re clearly, the health piece, all of that has to be addressed. Is now the right time? And she said, ‘Now is the perfect time because I want to take ownership of my story.”

Alex added, “I said I wasn’t gonna cry – because I feel like I’ve cried enough over the last year and a half. But what people are gonna see is a broken woman who has had the world on her shoulders for so long – and just cracked.”

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