Wendy Williams On Why Women Don't Need To Be Like Men At Work
“Don’t feel like you have to act like a man. I think a lot of women think when you want to be powerful all of a sudden you put on this pantsuit and you scrub your face of makeup and you get out there on the front line. And that’s good, and great but there is a way that you can still wear a wrap dress and focus on the good work you do,” Wendy Williams, host of the Wendy Williams Show.
Williams is known for her unfiltered, unapologetic, authentic style, which has proven to be a hit with her audience - from the Wendy Williams Show. The daytime program is well into its 9th year and recently aired the 1500th episode. “To galvanize the world for one hour is such a joy and it was so where I was meant to be,” she says.
Williams believes that being herself at work has been the key to her success because this is a message that speaks to a much wider audience. “Bringing diverse people together is very important to me. You can’t just take a broad stroke over humanity and say all white or all black people are bad.”
Williams says finding confidence takes time and a lot of courage. In this interview, she shares how women can find their inner voice and learn to be themselves at work.
Michelle King: What challenges have you experienced, as a woman of color in your industry?
Wendy Williams: What I have learnt in my career as a black woman is that people are still scared of my skin. But I speak confidently. So, when I walk in the room I scare everyone but this is also my most empowering moment. I feel like a superhero because everyone doesn’t know what to do. Even though the underlying view is judgmental, racist or sexist - I am aware of it, so I handle it.
If you are a little man, (not of color) and you are meeting me for the first time - and my hands are bigger than yours and I am two feet taller than you - then I will roll my shoulders back and stand even taller. You have no idea how many sweaty palms I have had to shake in my day. I can’t be any shorter. My skin is my skin. I will roll my shoulders back and I will face you.
King: Confidence is something a lot of women struggle with. What can women do to develop this?
Williams: Confidence is something that is cultivated, it is not something you are born with. At 35 hopefully you don’t feel the same way as you did when you were 25. Confidence is something you build every day - including me. I am 53 and I am still building confidence. It is a daily practice. It is not something you build by talking with your friends. Confidence is something that comes from within. Shut off the TV. Shut off social media. Get in a room and think about who you are – that is where confidence begins.
King: Can you share an example of how you have built your confidence?
Williams: Well, my first radio job I was making three dollars and twenty-five cents an hour and all my friends were working menial jobs. I was the only one in my set who went on to a job that was related to my career, which was radio. And I was scared to death. All my friends thought it would be fun, (to have a friend in radio) but I said, ‘No, no it’s not that kind of party - you don’t understand my mission.’ My friends thought that it was a party. Even my parents did not understand what I was doing with this job. Nobody understood.
I knew I was not there to make friends. I knew I was not there to have boyfriends. I knew I was on a mission. I blocked everyone out. I cried every day. I was like, ‘What have I gotten myself into.’ But I had to be brave. I was not going to let outside forces know how scared I was. I was not going to leave until I got my next job. And the next job I got. That was how I got on TV.
King: How can women better support other women in the industry?
Williams: I have never had a specific women mentor, other than observing my mother. You really don’t need direct, tactical contact to have support from women. Just google your favorite women and take one thing, one piece of advice from each of them - one thing that you love about them.
But ultimately, I make my own decisions. That’s the way it is. Women need to gain that inner strength to be their own best friend and their own best counsel.
King: What advice do you have for young women wanting to make it in your industry?
Williams: Be smart about what it is you want to be when you grow up. You may change your mind a few times, perhaps while you’re in college, but it’s important to have some sort of path set for yourself. Whether that be what region you want to go to college in, what school you want to go to, what major you want to declare. It’s important to be decisive about what you want in life and just go for it.