Opinion: Lifetime's 'Where Is Wendy Williams?' Documentary Should Raise Concerns Over Ethics and Accountability

The producers displayed insensitivity and a lack of regard for Wendy's well-being, and people should be outraged by it.

If hell is real, I have some nominees who belong in one or more of its seventh circles.

It only took me one minute of watching Lifetime’s “Where Is Wendy Williams?” to know it didn’t belong on television. I was already apprehensive to watch it given its premise — that it was intended to chronicle her comeback via a podcast — was flawed.

Many of us have missed Wendy’s commentary on daytime television. Some of us still miss how she used to talk about all the hot topics back on the radio. The longing for her return has been understandable, but if you were paying close enough attention, there were signs that her purported podcast was unlikely ever to happen.

Respectfully, when she called into “Good Morning America” some years after she no longer hosted “The Wendy Williams Show,” I noticed she wasn’t answering any of the questions cogently.

5 Things We Learned From the ‘Where Is Wendy Williams?’ Docuseries

Then there was the IG Live with Fat Joe, where she, to put it generously, did not sound like her best self. And in all those random appearances with those random new people claiming to be working for her — complete with paparazzi trailing them — she even struggled to clarify that she knew what a podcast was.

I don’t say this to be cruel. I know that I am not a doctor. But as someone who has listened to Wendy Williams talk for over 20 years, she felt off even then.

So what comeback was there going to be?

It always felt like it would be exploitation, and the little bit of the documentary I eventually managed to watch confirmed those suspicions.

I know the people behind the documentary feel differently as they’ve been doing several interviews in the wake of not only the shocking footage of Wendy Williams they showed but the criticism of their decision to show her in such a poor state of health.

‘Where Is Wendy Williams?’ Producers Claim They Didn’t Know The Famed Host Was Diagnosed With Dementia

Two days before the premiere, her medical care team released a statement saying she had been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia. It is the same disease Bruce Willis has, and before he eventually announced his retirement, he was reportedly struggling in several of the last films he filmed. 

He might have needed the money, but he needed peace more, which is why I understand why Wendy’s guardian tried to stop the documentary from airing — which attorneys for Lifetime successfully fended off.

In an interview with, the filmmakers said they were unaware of Wendy’s diagnosis during production but acknowledged that something was off. But, according to showrunner Erica Hanson, “We all felt this was a complex and sensitive story to tell, and we all felt a great responsibility to do it with dignity and sensitivity.”

That is not what I watched, 

And I just have a hard time believing this was fine with Wendy’s best interests in mind. 

However, the "Nerve of the Year" award already goes to Shawn Zanotti, featured in the docuseries as Wendy’s publicist, who slammed Lifetime producers for exploiting Wendy. 

"I felt that [Williams] was being exploited," she told NBC News. “She thought we were focusing on the comeback of her career. ... She would be mortified. There’s no way you can convince me that she would be OK with looking and seeing herself in that way.”

And she doesn’t believe the producers cared about her diagnosis. 

Zanotti said: "I don’t think [the diagnosis] would have stopped them at all. The producers were asking questions throughout the entire time — would ask questions where she would somewhat seem confused, and I feel as though it was done to be intentional at that moment in time to make their storyline.”

A better publicist would have stopped it. But this is why her criticism is correct but hypocritical coming from her. 

She continued, “When I mentioned [doing a documentary] to Wendy, she immediately said: 'Yes, I would love to do it. I would love to be able to get my story out there.’”

Again, Wendy was showing signs of struggle even then. She is no less guilty than producers, so Wendy’s niece, also featured in the doc, rightfully looked at her with distrust during their interaction.

I may not know why some people spend so much on Uber Eats (a criticism I should also apply to myself), but I do know Wendy’s niece means right by her auntie, and it is a shame how they have been kept away from her by Wendy’s legal guardian - a guardian who would allow those other vultures to be around her — which doesn’t reflect so well on her either.

If there is any positive to be found in this documentary, it is that it highlights how a family in pain as they deal with the cognitive decline of a loved one can have their lives further complicated by the guardianship system in this country.

I don’t believe this doc's “Free Britney” packaging from those who created it. The movement came from fans, and when TV producers did get involved, they managed to make works that didn’t exploit Britney further. If they cared that much about Wendy, it was not captured. 

Still, I hope what was shown can help those who love and know Wendy Williams best can return to her.

And better protect her.

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