By Tess Ghilaga • Shot by Daphne Borowski at Studio 26
When the opening music plays, Wendy Williams dashes through the double doors on the set of her eponymous show, now in its eighth season, to greet her studio audience and her 2 million at-home viewers. At 52, Williams looks and feels better than ever, thanks in large part to a healthy diet and a fitness regimen that includes Pilates. Here, she talks about how she went from being an overweight, reluctant exerciser to a fit and fabulous method fan.
She was always the “fat girl.”
When I was in sixth grade, I remember my gym teacher weighing all the kids at the beginning of the school year. She screamed across the gym that I weighed 149 pounds. I was always very tall for my age and I’ve got big bones, but I will never forget how devastated I was.
She started dieting when she was six.
Because I was the “big one” in my family, I’ve been on hare-brained diets made up by mother from the time I was in first grade. Like, I’d have tuna fish and mustard instead of mayonnaise, or yogurt and a half-sandwich with no cheese on whole wheat. It didn’t work.
She hated exercise.
My interest level in physical activity was zero. Zero. I was always last to be picked for the kickball and softball teams. But I had to do something, because my parents made me. I learned to swim when I was three years old, and I swam competitively. I didn’t love it, but I liked it enough. I would always undo any weight-loss benefit by going to the vending machine and buying Scooter Pies while waiting for my parents to pick me up.
In college, at Northeastern University, I did no sports. And after graduation, I started a career in radio, which was perfect for a lazy person.
She gained more than 100 pounds when expecting her son.
Prior to getting pregnant with my son Kevin in 2000, I weighed approximately 197 pounds. I didn’t look bad because I’m 5’11” and can carry more weight—it’s one of the joys of being tall.
I had had two previous miscarriages, so our son was my husband Kevin’s and my third shot. I was on bed rest for nine months. I was nervous that I might have another miscarriage, so I ate myself silly and gained 103 pounds. So when my son, also named Kevin, was born in 2000, I weighed 300 pounds. When you’re tall and big, you’re not a refrigerator, you’re a Sub-Zero!
But she didn’t want to be the “fat mom.”
At 300 pounds, I didn’t feel like myself. Everyone knows that mom who comes to school pickup and is embarrassing to the kid because she’s the “fat mom.” I couldn’t do that to my son—I wanted him to be proud, and I wanted to be sexy for my husband. And I wanted to get back into my career game and rule the airwaves. But I was like, How do I do this?
She got plastic surgery.
I got a “mommy makeover” in 2000, including a tummy tuck and liposuction. (I got breast implants in 1994.) My son calls plastic surgery cheating, but I call it cheating with a purpose, because for me, it was a jump-off to a whole new lifestyle. And once you pay all that money for something, you look like a fool if you gain it back.
Then she hit the gym.
After I got the mommy makeover, my husband Kevin and I started working out together. But he’s a real beast in the gym, and it was torture working out with him. Number one: At that gym, there were men in there and it looked a little like a pickup place, so it became about the fashion and keeping my makeup on. Number two: The only things you heard were grunts and weights dropping. It wasn’t really my kind of place and I never felt comfortable.
So I got a great trainer in a private studio 20 minutes away from my house. She was in her 40s, so she knew how to work me as opposed to those 22-year-olds. And she was a mom, so we could have light conversation about things we had in common.
She first saw Pilates on an infomercial.
I first discovered Pilates years before on those infomercials with Susan Lucci. The first time I did Pilates was four years ago with my trainer. I enjoyed it much more than cross-training. I loved lying down on the Reformer and stretching. Pilates is very elegant, and it makes me feel young and accomplished.
I want to stay limber, and I don’t want to be bent over. There’s nothing worse than a hunched-over tall person. I’ll never forget I had a science teacher who was an older woman who was a tall Sally like me, and her back was rounded and hunched. And I thought, Oh my God, is that my future?