Meanwhile, she upgraded her exterior. “In my mind, I’ve always been fabulous,” she says. She’d long planned to be fabulous on the outside too. She’d grown up, as she puts it, “a fatty A-cup,” which wouldn’t do. “I want more. I want it bigger. I want it Wendy,” she says. (If she were a guy, Wendy figures, she’d have been a drag queen.) When she first got implants, she bounced excitedly up to her oldest friend Lisa. Lisa is naturally endowed. “Dammit, I need them bigger,” Lisa remembers her saying. She’s got D-cups now, though she wears a smaller bra for what she calls the “muffin breast” look, spillage over the edges.
Wendy had liposuction, too. She was sick of fighting chunkiness, even if it was celebrated. (On one song Tupac Shakur said of Wendy, “I’ll put Jenny Craig on your fat ass . . . Why you always wearing spandex?”)
While Wendy was at it, she rid herself of other excesses, like her first husband. She didn’t talk it out with him. Wendy was the woman with a plan—“to the nth degree,” as her sister says. After he left for work, she divided up their possessions and hired two moving vans and a locksmith. He’d figure it out.
For Wendy, everything was going well, and then in a moment it changed. In 1998, Hot 97 ignominiously booted her. There were reports that Wendy had been in a fistfight with another female D.J. (untrue, says Wendy). Certainly she had energized enemies. “Did Puffy have a hand in it? It is my belief,” she says. At Hot 97, Wendy liked to insinuate that certain rappers, despite their macho posturings, were gay. (Now she’s more subtle. Say a celebrity’s name. Then ask “How you doin’?” in a low, seductive voice. That’s the code.) Puffy was among those who came in for some innuendo. (So had Tupac.)
“Oh, yes, I was left on the side of the turnpike for roadkill,” she says. Wendy has no illusions about human nature. Most people, seeing a wreck, hold up their camera phone. “People rolled right past me, and I understood that,” Wendy says.
She limped out of New York and took a part-time assignment with Power 99 in Philadelphia. “I had no idea really what they did there,” she says. They knew her, though, which was not an advantage. Most (70 percent, according to one survey) hated her. Wendy has never minded being hated—a caller could say, as one did, “You look like a dude.” Wendy retorted, “But you’re listening.” Once they listened, Wendy had a knack for connecting. She offered up herself to her audience, shared every personal detail. By the time she left, listeners had cried with her through two miscarriages and the birth of a child.
By 2001, she’d helped Power 99 move from fourteenth to second place with 18-to-34-year-olds, and WBLS offered Wendy a chance to return to New York.
“I have arrived,” said Williams, showing me a diamond-encrusted ring as big as a radish. “I’m beyond the velvet rope.”
Wendy and Kevin, her second husband, scheduled a little business meeting. Kevin is a big, forceful man with a shaved head and a bunch of tattoos. Tom and Shirley had hoped for a college-educated fellow, a Carlton Banks type in khakis. Kevin had owned a hair salon, promoted parties. He wears to-the-knee basketball shorts; sometimes he addresses Wendy as Yo. But when he met Wendy, Kevin was, as a friend put it, “still hungry. He wanted to climb, to make it,” just like Wendy. He became Wendy’s manager.
About New York, though, Kevin hesitated. Philadelphia had been good to them.
“We’re fine right here,” said Kevin.
Wendy was earning $275,000 annually; she wanted more. “I’m ready to give New York another shot,” she said.
At WBLS on Park Avenue South, Wendy’s studio is as glamorous as the inside of a UPS truck. The ceiling is low, the carpet stained, the plants fake. Wendy has a view of the East River, though she doesn’t look at it much. She focuses on her audience, the one she’s assembled in the studio: four black college girls who work as interns.
“Muses,” explains Wendy’s executive producer, Artie Evans, a former intern himself. They run for coffee and, sometimes, for Wendy’s hair clips, but mainly they stand in a clump against a wall. “When I look at you, give me a yay or a nay,” Wendy advises one intern. She wants to hear them—an oooh or a laugh, though not too much. Artie recalls his first attempt to talk to Wendy. “How are you?” he’d asked. Wendy rolled her eyes. “I don’t need no fucking mood check,” she told him. And so Artie has considerately issued guidelines to the interns. Don’t speak to Wendy unless spoken to. Don’t stare at Wendy when she’s on the mike, which makes her uncomfortable. In fact, don’t look Wendy in the eyes unless she looks at you.