266: Why Talk Show Host Wendy Williams Is Launching Wendy Digital
We are living in an age of instant gratification where even businesses are guilty of concentrating on the sprint rather than the marathon. We also convince ourselves that successful people are lucky or born with an exceptional talent. But dismissing someone’s work ethic as luck is quite possibly the biggest insult there is.
In a world of shortcuts, the harsh reality is that there is no secret sauce to cook up a dish of success. As for all those online courses and eBooks that promise to help you get rich quick, the inconvenient truth is that it’s only the author that is going to make money fast.
The truth that nobody wants to hear is that the only path to greatness requires hard work and dedication. The countless hours that it takes to master a skill and the sacrifices along the way that it takes to make it possible. Or as my teenage son tell me, it’s all about the grind.
However, the story of how individuals are investing 10,000 hours to master a skill rather than binge-watching TV shows on Netflix is one that is seldom told. For example, Wendy Williams is best known for her long-running daytime Emmy-nominated talk show, “The Wendy Williams Show.”
However, there is no such thing as overnight success. When running on the comparison treadmill, many choose to conveniently forget about how Williams built a fan base throughout a 23-year career in radio. Rather than comparing herself to others in the industry, she decided to use her unique and authentic voice to build her brand. An audience of over 12 million people allowed her to become one of the most popular personalities in radio.
Wendy was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in November of 2009 and became one of only a handful of women to achieve the honor. The nurturing of relationships with an audience builds a trust that should never be taken for granted.
A part of what I love about my show is the connection I have with my audience and fans, whether it be in the studio, or while they’re watching at home. – Wendy Williams
Refreshingly, despite enjoying phenomenal success with an Emmy-nominated daily talk show, she is keen to show the world that there is much more to her than talk-show Wendy. Although from the outside people might see an actress, comedian, entrepreneur, designer, or New York Times best-selling author, Wendy Williams is much more comfortable being seen as a mother and a businesswoman.
As someone who is continuously looking to engage with her audience, the launch of a behind the scenes entertainment and lifestyle app called Wendy Digital makes perfect sense.
There seems to be much more to the app than just indulging users with a daily fix of pop culture. For example, the ‘Shopping’ section is again designed to genuinely connect with her fans and allow users to browse and purchase Wendy’s outfit of the day or learn more about the moisturizer she uses.
When I spoke with Wendy Williams, it was clear that she takes her responsibilities in this feature very seriously. It’s not just about brand partnerships, but a strong focus on what Wendy Williams genuinely likes and recommends.
Williams told me how her audience often picks up on the tiny details from the show and will regularly bombard her with questions such as what is that nail color you wear? Or what do you use on your skin for it to look so great? The app enables Williams to have those conversations with her audience and address these questions directly.
In many ways, Willams was a pioneer by building a career on being authentic, open and honest. But now everyone is doing it, she told me. As a result, she is determined to push the envelope by creating a digital platform to connect with her audience.
Essentially, technology is enabling Williams to leave the makeup, and false lashes in the TV studio and broadcast live from her mom cave. It was evident from our conversation that engaging with her fans and allowing them to follow the rollercoaster of emotions in life whether that be laughing or crying is incredibly important to her.
Now through my app, I have a brand new platform where I can continue to engage with my fans, and be able to share more behind-the-scenes intel into my life outside of the show – Wendy Williams
In a digital world, audiences are now increasingly turning to YouTube stars for authenticity and hosts they can relate with. Viewing trends suggest people are turning their back on polished, fast edited and contrived TV shows that feel fake. However, Williams has built a career on simply being herself, and this seems to be her secret recipe for success.
In a world where everyone is trying to be like somebody else, it’s incredibly refreshing to see Wendy Williams has built a hugely successful career by doing what she does best. Being herself.
Neil: What I love about you Wendy is you’re hugely successful, but what many people forget is that this did not happen overnight and you built a devoted fan base throughout successful 23 year career in radio and in a world of instant gratification, I think that alone deserve so much respect, but I mean has it always been about your audience or do you think that you’ve earned your positions throughout the years because of your love of genuinely engaging with people and that never leaves you?
Wendy: Yes, that is my position throughout the years, so now I’ve been a professional broadcaster for a little over 30 years and now finally starting to all come together because during my radio time, I really was a pioneer regarding a lot of stuff, a hot topics, exposing things, talking about things, being open, being honest, now everybody’s doing it and I feel like because now, because everyone’s doing it, I want to do it in a different way. Like they’re corny. They are late to my party.
Neil: Absolutely and also many reasons, I’m inspired by you because I think most of all, I love how you generally want to meaningfully connect with your audience. Now my story pales in significance to your own, but I was just a tech writer guy that won LinkedIn top voice award and I suddenly found myself surrounded by an audience of over a million readers, but I didn’t just want to be the writer guy so I created this show so I could connect with my audience and also give them a platform to engage with me.
I only bring this up because I heard a beautiful quote from you recently where you said a part of what I love about my show is the connection I have with my audience and fans, whether it’s in the studio or while they’re watching it at home and I believe that you are now launching a lifestyle app, but again, the motivations behind it for me at least seems to be about engaging with your fans and being able to share more about those behind the scenes and tell around your life and outside of the show but can you tell the listeners why is so important for you to launch, Wendy digital?
Wendy: Well, it’s important because I’ve got to keep moving with the times. Many of us Neil did not grow up with social media and all this access to celebrity life. The only thing that we knew is to pick up a tabloid and, and read about celebrity life so now we can actually have access to our favorite celebrities from their own mouths and I love doing my talk show. We are about to go into our 9th season and I love it.
I love it, I love it but you know, one hour of TV content is only 44 minutes of the show. Other moments are commercials; I can’t possibly explain to you what my moisturizer is in that 44 minutes because we have other things to talk about. I can’t possibly explain to you, you know, how I walk my dog, what kind of dog I have or you know, playing in the backyard with the dog that can’t make the talk show all about Wendy behind the scenes.
I tried to pepper things, you know, throughout the years as I’ve done with my radio show so that people understand the host that they’re getting used to listening to, but then you have to get back to this celebrity culture. What I love about doing this app is after being on TV for all of these years, it’s almost by popular demand. It’s, you know, that I need to do this app.
Neil: Absolutely. I mean I’m a man of a certain age as well. That grew up at a time where there was no social media or even Internet and the only information you had access to was a narrative that was decided by a particular magazine or publication. So again, tell me again about the app. I mean in particular, what features are there? I mean, I’ve read about hot topics and Wendy on the go, but can you just expand on those a little?
Wendy: Yes. Okay. So, of course there will be hot topics on my app. I will not be doing all of my own hot topics. I am, I will have my reporters who are all around the world or the country and they will be, you know, giving me their top stories. So if something goes on in downtown London, I’m not there to report it, but perhaps if one of my girls or guys is there, you know, with the microphone and the camera and then you send that back to me and I put it on the app because hot topics are what we do.
What, aside from hot topics, I’ll also have, like giveaways, you know, people, people love to win stuff in fun Trivia Games and things like that and the giveaways will be something as simple as a T-shirt with my image on it, you know, or maybe you know, an outfit from my HSM clothing line or you know, maybe a pair of shoes that I’m no longer wearing. They’d been gently worn. Who wears a size 11. Would you like these? Okay. Answer this trivia question. Then of course there’s that one on one direct contact, which I absolutely love Neil, you know, the idea of being able to just be so intimate with my Wendy watchers, you know, I’m really looking forward to, and I’m looking forward to doing it with very little makeup, of course, no eyelashes. It just like a pair of sneakers, just kicking it like I just want to kick it with the people.
Neil, you know, if people are asking me and people observe and I love this about my Wendy watchers, they observe the most random things. Wendy, what is that? Nail color? You wear it every day. Why don’t you have, you know, tips, why don’t you have a, you know, why don’t you ever wear a black nail polish or something like that and then other people are like Wendy, even nail Polish that you wear is really gorgeous. Well, let’s talk about nails.
So I’ll do that but you know what, I might do it from my mom cave at home. I might do it in the car while I’m driving, but the cameras in there, you’ll see random things. This is anything but the talk show. Do you know what I’m saying?
Neil: Yeah, absolutely. I also notice there’s a shopping section there where users can browse and purchase Wendy’s outfit of the day along with your favorite product recommendations and this got me thinking as well because I’m lucky and I like engaging and actually providing value to my audience, but it’s not a responsibility that is close to your heart and by that I mean making sure that it’s not about sponsorship deals with Brunswick as such, but what you like and what you recommend.
Wendy: It’s what I like and what I recommend and you know, it’s taken me this long to have this app, you know, up and running because I never really thought about the app, you know, I do the talk show and I go about my business and mind my own business, but people ask very random things. I could be in my office and we do this thing here with the talk show host, the after show and the after show is, you know, sometimes I’m in here, I’m taking off my eyelashes, I’m paring down my makeup on and people will see as simple as vial, you know, serum that I will put on my face and they will hone in on that bottle. They won’t even hear what I’m saying. It’s just what are you putting on your face?
Why does your skin looks so good or have you gotten another facelift?
Now mind you, I’ve never had one facelift, but you know, people, people are shady. They say what they want, you know what I’m saying? But like I’m sitting here with this vial, it’s very, very small. This bottle of serum on my desk, which I just had reordered two more. Now if they want to know what it is I’m going to tell them, but I will tell them right down to the price, $75 or excuse me, $43 for this stupid vial, but you know what? I’m on the other side of 50 Neil. I can’t use 100% drugstore stuff all the time so I will share with people and you know, I laugh and I cry on the talk show and I will laugh and cry and take them on adventures in the app world.
Neil: But it’s that honesty and authenticity isn’t it, that wins the audience over and I think that’s a reason as well, while people are going to YouTube rather than TV sometimes because they’re seeing these young YouTubers talking about younger audiences here, but they see these young you tubers, what’s and all, there’s no fast edits. There’s no fancy makeup or fancy angles. It’s just them in their room and I think the audience can relate to that much more, can’t we?
Wendy: I absolutely believe that. I think in this day and age of, you know, too much plastic surgery, too many hair weaves, too many wigs. Look who’s talking, me!
But you know what, in this age of fakeness, people crave something real. And the only way you could get real is when it’s emotion, because pictures aren’t real. People always doctoring pictures. So, you know, I’d done, I call myself chief up content regarding the app because, you know what, when I say, you know, look, sign me up for horseback riding. I haven’t ridden off horses since I was in kindergarten and I was thrown off the horse and I’m frightened. So then we’ll go horseback riding or we’ll go for the I fly where you put on that suit and you fly up in the sky. I’ve never pumped gas. So, you know, let me see how this all works, pumping gas.
People don’t think that, you know, I do my own grocery shopping, so let’s go grocery shopping. Come on, look in my car. Don’t judge but judge, you always do. You know, things like that, you know, Neil, I don’t mind getting interpersonal with my life. I just am very, very protective of my son who is 16 and my husband who while he’s my manager and we work together every day, my husband wants to be that guy off camera, out of the picture and I very much treasure, me personally, I treasure our home life, so no, you will not have a tour. Let’s go to Wendy’s home closet. If you see me cook something, the camera better be focusing on the pot, on the stove. Don’t be panning around the kitchen and stuff. Not that there’s anything much to see, but what the risk to see is mine. That’s my private, private moment.
Neil: Yeah, it is a hard balance to achieve. What I also love about what you’re doing now as well is you know, we’re both people of certain age and I love how you’re open to new ideas. It’s very easy to get stuck in your ways and just carry on regardless and the same routine and things always used to be done this way, but you really seem to be keen to embrace new ideas as well.
Wendy: Not really, Neil. I am so set in my ways. It’s ridiculous but you know, having this talk show, believe it or not, I’ll tell you something very funny when the talk show was first invented, you know, Hey Wendy, we’ve got this idea, we want to do a talk show and then all of a sudden we start hiring staff and everything and I’m like okay, how are people going to get tickets to the show? And so they said, well through the computer and I said, what?
Now this was nine years ago. So I said, no, no, no, let’s set up a telephone number, easy for people like me and the number was 1 800, okay Wendy and look, look the kids in my IT department, they just humored me. So we set up that telephone number and but bless their hearts and then maybe two years after that I finally learned how to text, but now you know like our son is 16. So you know, I have to stay up with stuff. I have to be able to check his grades and email the guidance counselor. I don’t email, but I know how to get somebody to do it.
Neil: Hey, you are recording a podcast with someone on the other side of the Atlantic. So you’re doing all right.
Wendy: Yeah. You know, as long as you’re at the wheel, Neil, we’re fine. Don’t let go of the wheel.
Neil: My hands are on the wheel. You’re in safe hands Wendy, don’t you worry. You are right and what you’re saying, we’re increasing the communicating on our phones now through emojis as well and I think a big part of your personality is fun. So I’m glad you didn’t miss out emojis from your lifestyle app. So can you tell me about these emoticons? I think one’s called, is it wen-moji and the fun way that users can express themselves with a set.
Wendy: The wenmojis are fabulous. They’re absolutely curated to me and we will go through the gamut of emotions like so then my lips poked out a little bit. Boobs are always prominent. Hair is always brown and brown and blond and I love the way the emojis look and I love what they represent, you know, crying, laughter, what not I, you know, we don’t launch until the 24th, which is next week, but I look at this app thing as a marathon, not some quick race that’s going to be dead and fizzled in a year.
Neil: That’s one of the things I love the game because you’re doing things for the right reasons there, but I’m sure the app is going to be a huge, huge hit and deservedly so after working incredibly hard to get where you want and earn the respect from your fans. So this also reminds me of a great quote by actor Kevin Spacey, which was, I feel it’s the responsibility for anyone who breaks through a certain ceiling to send the elevator back down and give others a helpful lift. So this is the moment where I ask if there was one piece of advice you could offer anyone listening, what would it be?
Wendy: Make sure that you have a solid plan B. Hey it does not always work out, and I’m not a dream killer, but I’m a realist and for people who say, just work hard and don’t give up, you know what? Sometimes you got know when to hold them and know when to fold them. You got to have a solid plan B.
I feel like, I feel like people are encouraged to a fault in this world. When I say that I mean, if there are three most valuable players on that little league baseball team with your son, then give those three, the trophies, every kid on the team doesn’t need to feel like a winner? You lost.
Neil: Get over it.
Wendy: Yeah well that’s part of life. It’s part of life. I think that we reward way too much and I think that, you know, if, if you want to be a singer and your voice is not good, then your mom and dad need to keep you in those singing lessons to humor you, but steer you gently into a plan B.
Neil: It’s slightly an Einstein quote that if you try the same thing a thousand times and expect different results, that’s the theory of insanity right there.
Wendy: Insanity. Yes. Yes.
Neil: So I’m incredibly fortunate to have listeners in 150 countries to this show. So before I let you go, can you tell the listeners what countries Wendy digital is available in and where they can find out more information?
Wendy: If you’d like to find out more about me before you know participating in my app, just go to wendyshow.com. As a matter of fact, if you just Google Wendy Williams, a whole bunch of crap will pop up. Some of it is real, some of it’s fake, but it’s very entertaining.
Neil: Love it. So as someone is a media mogul, actress, comedian, entrepreneur, designer, New York Times best selling author with your own Emmy nominated talk show and now mobile app to boot. You’ve been an absolute genuine pleasure to speak with today. So I hope the listeners are inspired by your journey as much as I am and who knows, maybe one day I can come on your show too. So thanks for coming on. The show today.
Wendy: Well, I was about to ask you, Neil, do you ever come to New York?
Neil: Well, I’ll get over to the states whenever I can. I’ve just got back from San Francisco. I was covering a tech event over there in March. I was in Vegas for an Adobe tech event, but I need a tech event in New York actually, so if you hear anything let me know.
Wendy: Well, no, I don’t. This is not a tech event, but it certainly is the main event.