*This article was originally published February 9, 2019.
At some point, when it comes to dealing with drama, every Black woman has had to ask herself, “Am EYE trippin’?”
There’s always that one friend who backs up what you’re feeling, and no matter how ridiculous the situation may seem, when you’re faced with craziness the most important thing is to trust your gut. The friend reminds you to swallow your fears, stand your ground and speak your truth.
That’s the kind of friend that Wendy Williams has been to us over the years. Only instead of giving us advice from across the table, she’s visiting us daily on our TV screens. Known for bringing the fun and the real, Wendy makes it easy for her army of “cohosts” (her studio audience) to connect.
Thanks to her authenticity, it’s easy to root for Williams. Whether right or wrong, she has always been open about her struggles with some of the same issues that we may have dealt with ourselves: addiction, rumored infidelity and infertility. Now, as she takes time off to face her latest health battle, this is our opportunity to root for her again.
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True to form, Williams opened up to us about her fight with Graves’ disease on her show in 2018. The autoimmune disease affects the thyroid and causes irritability, anxiety and other symptoms. Once it became hard to deny the unusual things happening to her while on air, she bravely shared her plight and her power to deal with it.
“Stop putting everyone first, because if we’re not good, they’re not good,” she warned other women last year.
Good Morning America, Williams stated that she also has hyperthyroidism, a condition caused by an overactive thyroid. In recent weeks, due to complications with the illness, it was announced that Williams would be taking an extended break from the show. She’ll be under strict supervision by her doctors.
It’s great that she’s taking time to mend, but the situation presents us with a classic case of “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
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Williams will undoubtedly be back, but not having her on the air makes you realize just how lucky we’ve been. Whether you love or hate her, you cannot dismiss this level of Black Girl Magic: Williams is the only Black woman on daytime TV who holds down her own show.
As a 57-year-old Black woman—an age she doesn’t shy away from—with more than 30 years of experience in the industry, she didn’t just serve tea; she practically helped invent it. Williams’s brand of fabulous news and entertainment helped to usher in a new era of urban celebrity gossip, which caused her to butt heads with Hollywood’s biggest stars. Williams booked guests who would otherwise never have had exposure on daytime TV, from Bobby Brown and The Real Housewives of wherever to rappers who never quite made it to the mainstream. Still, this only created more of a thirst for her voice.
At her peak in radio, in the early 2000’s, she had 12 million listeners. She was later inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2009. The year before, her Daytime Emmy Award–nominated nationally syndicated talk show, of which she serves as an executive producer, burst onto the scene and we haven’t been the same since.
Yes, we’ve seen Oprah Winfrey take over daytime television, but she was the only one to do it successfully for more than a decade—until Williams. We’ve watched so many of our favorite Black female talk-show hosts come and go, from Tyra Banks and Whoopi Goldberg to Queen Latifah and Iyanla Vanzant. Even though they each left their own mark in the space, Williams, like Oprah, has had a longer run on daytime TV.
For ten years, the new Queen of Daytime TV has brought us her particular taste in celebrity drama, which nurtured our taste for guilty pleasures and reminded us to have fun. Williams also reminded us not take ourselves so seriously—she’s the first to make fun of her uproarious gabfest, but we’re still (as she likes to call us) her “people.”
The media mogul’s recent battle with Graves’ disease is also a reminder of how important it is to tend to our health and be advocates for our own wellness.
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Guest hosts will keep the party going while Williams focuses on healing. Surely this swap will only further highlight the void we’ve felt. But in an era where we have to literally and figuratively scream to the entire universe, “Trust Black women!” it’s great to see that Williams is trusting herself enough to take a break. She hasn’t earned it—it’s simply her right.
She’s just like the friend who always helps us keep it real but also needs her own outlet to breathe. So here’s to Williams. We are wishing her well during a much-needed break. She’s given so much of herself to the industry, making sure that Black women have a seat on the purple couch. Giving her some me time is the least we can do.
Melissa Kimble, who splits her time between Chicago and Brooklyn, is a writer, digital strategist and founder of #blkcreatives, a collective that advocates for Black genius across creative industries.