Talk show host and radio legend Wendy Williams is the high priestess of gab. Throughout her 20-plus-year career on the air, she has interviewed celeb after celeb. Today, Williams is also a hands-on married mom of one and has plenty to say about the marvels of motherhood and what it takes to raise "a really good person."
momlogic: People usually see you as this glamorous media career woman, but I hear your favorite time of day is hanging out with your son when he gets home from school.
Wendy Williams: I love to get home and see what I'm going to make for dinner. You know, it's not perfect -- I don't cook every single day, and I'm certainly not the best cook in the world. But I grew up wanting a career and wanting a family. It's hard to figure out how to balance both, and you need a lot of cooperation from everyone. I try to get my pajamas on by the time it gets dark. We hang out in the kitchen, the heart of the home, and I make dinner while my son Kevin does his homework.
ml: Can you name a life lesson that you really hope to impart to your son?
WW: I just want him to be a decent human being. It's tough enough these days with kids, and all that's going on in cyberspace, but parents have a responsibility to impart certain goals to our children and send them out into the world and hope that they do well. I would prefer for him to marry a smart career woman. Because if the economy continues the way it's going, families are going to need two incomes for even the most basic things. College is now about $60,000 for four years. By the time our children send their kids to school, tuition will probably be upwards of $85,000 a year. One income just won't do it. I want him to marry a smart girl like his mother.
ml: You've got a really good chance.
WW: If they really love their mother, they will look for qualities like their mother. For me, my husband is my manager and our son is our biggest cheerleader. If there's a leak in the roof, I'm the one who makes the call. It frees my husband up to manage me. Men these days are working so hard. I also hope my son marries a girl who can cook a little something. Each girl should know how to cook five things great, and five things not so great. I also want him to marry a girl who cares what she looks like, someone who wants to be the best she can be, from their first date 'til death do they part, or whatever. Hey, I'm not the best-looking woman, but I manage to smoosh some Chapstick on during the day. I would love him to marry a girl like his mom.
ml: You're beautiful! What are you talking about?!
WW: Well, beauty is relative. It matters to me that I stay within a five-pound weight range. My son sees that, and he understands how important it is to me.
ml: You felt it was important to speak out about bullying. Could you tell me a little bit about why that was so important to you?
WW: A lot of us have been bullied at some point or another. Some people were more outright bullied and others are looking back and realizing it. For me personally, I was a victim of bullying. I'm tall and had weight issues early in life, as well as being only one of four blacks in my school. I've always had some sort of cross to bear regarding the people around me. It's coming to light right now, certainly it's not the first time in history someone has killed themselves for being bullied. As parents raising our children, we need to raise them to be more tolerant of the differences around them. You don't have to be gay to be tolerant. At five years old, my son totally understood what it was to be gay. At his school, he's taller than other kids, but that's better when you are a boy than when you're a girl.
ml: I think kids pick up on vibes of fear and ignorance from their parents, even if it's not outwardly expressed.
WW: Tolerance turns into acceptance. It's like back in my parents' day, you weren't allowed to interracially marry. Look at the world we're living in right now -- everyone's interracial!
ml: An open line of communication helps, too.
WW: When I was growing up, I would've never gone to my parents if I thought a boy was cute, or if people were teasing me because I was fat. They were raising three kids, trying to put food on the table. What would they do -- enroll you in swim team? Are you kidding me? But times have now changed. As parents, we can do better at home by having a little bit more patience and a little bit more of an open mind when our kids come to us with certain things. Gently start a conversation. I respect that things will eventually change as far as him not wanting to share with us, but right now, we can talk to Kevin about anything.
ml: That's what every parent aspires to do. Because you want them to feel like they can come to you with all the issues they face these days.
WW: I would say it might be a little bit easier for my husband and I, because we both grew up being different in our own way. We talk to Kevin. We're both easily available. I don't do that thing where I say, "Go talk to your father." I'll say, "Kevin, I'm going to talk to you about this for five minutes. And I'd prefer then if you got the rest of the story from your father." I don't want him to feel there's anything he can't talk to me about -- including guy stuff, what's going on down there and his junk.
ml: There will be no junk left behind!
WW: Hey, stuff is changing and he has questions for both of us. All I can say is talk, talk, talk. It's not just the key to a successful relationship with your husband or mother, but it's also the key to a successful relationship with your children.
ml: It's a fine line, too, because you want to be their friend but you have to be the heavy sometimes.
WW: Exactly. Kevin knows it's his mother talking when I scream. Men have such a different way of doing it. I guess they always will. It's very sweet watching my son and husband's relationship. My husband does not raise his voice. His presence alone makes everything great. I'm the screamer. When I get to wit's end, I just start shrieking and think, "When did I become my mother?"
ml: It happens in spite of ourselves sometimes.
WW: Screaming is effective! But you've got to use that tool very sparingly, because when you bring it out, they've got to scatter. It's better than spanking. I grew up with spanking. My husband, just by being there, can often turn the whole situation around, but for me ... I haven't spanked Kevin in easily three and a half years. I don't mean a beatdown, but "You've done something wrong and you're going to feel the sting." I was raised on spanking and don't see it as corporal punishment. There's a definite difference between spanking your children and twisting their arm out of the socket and throwing them down the steps, or beating them with cords and switches. A quick spank with a firm hand and a little shrieking used to work for me when he was younger. Now he's 5' 5" and I could break my hand on impact.
ml: He has gained on you!
WW: He's so great. He gets what his job in the family is, which is to do well in school. I have to say, he's a really good kid and a good human being.
ml: What's the biggest challenge you've faced in juggling motherhood and career?
WW: Being there for school events sometimes. I must say it has become much easier now, because Kevin's been going to the same school for the past five years. When I was on the radio, I was able to be there for him all morning. I could do lunch duty at his school from 11:15 to 12:15 and still make it in to my shift on time. The dynamics of my career and my personal life were different. Now, I'm not able to be there quite has much, but I've stepped up talking to his teachers on the phone. If he has something going on in the evening we can certainly be there, but I can't be there that often during the day. I can't stand on the playground and watch out for him. I can certainly do a drive-by during the day.
ml: You can't hover anymore. That's tough.
WW: Kids are so into pop culture these days. They all want to meet Justin Bieber. They all want to meet Nicky Minaj and they all want to meet The Rock. For years, I've read the magazines and seen children in them and thought, "Oh my God! I can't do that to him." We don't live in Malibu, we live in Jersey. I just didn't want him to be all out there. But it just naturally happened last month. We went to see Pee Wee on Broadway, and [Kevin] walked the red carpet with me. I watched his behavior to see if he'd change, and he really hasn't. He could care less. We had the best time.
ml: What would you say if he said he wanted to be in show business?
WW: I don't him want out there just doing any old thing. As far as his career choices, I'd rather he be out there doing something smart, like a scientist. Not a talk show host!