Everything We Know About Wendy Williams’ Battle With Graves’ Disease Amid the End of Her Daytime TV Talk Show
(Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)
Many people know Wendy Williams as the TV personality with the catchphrase “how you doin’?” When it comes to how her own health is doing, though, Williams has had a rough few years. The iconic daytime TV host passed out on a live broadcast of her self-titled talk show in 2017, went into rehab and weathered an ugly divorce in 2019, then suffered the loss of her mother in 2020. As if all that weren’t more than enough for one person to handle, in 2021, she also contracted COVID-19. and she contends with numerous other ongoing, adverse health conditions.
So when Season 13 of The Wendy Williams Show debuted in October 2021 without her on it, it wasn’t a complete shock for longtime fans. But of course, they were still concerned and wanted to know why—and when their beloved host might return.
Unfortunately, it was announced on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022 that Williams’ talk show will officially end its run; Sherri Shepherd, who’s been guest-hosting in Williams’ absence, will take over the show for good.
According to TMZ, The Wendy Williams Show producers said in a statement, “This is… a bittersweet moment for us and our partners at FOX. We all have great love and affinity for Wendy, who grew into a true icon during her 12 incredible seasons as the solo host of a live, daily talk show.” Meanwhile, Shepherd said in her own statement, “OMG! I am so excited to have my dream come true and debut my very own talk show SHERRI in the fall. I can’t wait until I return to NY to host the show and merge everything I love… pop culture, talk, entertainment and comedy.”
Williams herself congratulated Shepherd in a Feb. 22 tweet that shared Shepherd’s reveal of the news on The Wendy Williams Show.
Prior to that shocking announcement, the 57-year-old Williams has been working for decades. She got her professional start in radio in 1989, where she eventually became known for her shock-jock-like way of dishing on celebs. She engaged in public feuds with various famous folks, most notably Whitney Houston, who sort-of threatened to beat up Williams.
When Williams finally transitioned to television in 2008, her self-titled talk show took off right away. In 2014, she became the first talk-show host to donate items to the Smithsonian. She’s written autobiographies, fictional biographies and even a romance. She’s had clothing, jewelry and shoe lines on HSN and QVC. She’s even executive produced a Lifetime movie about her life.
However, in the fall of 2021, Williams took a step back from her huge career due to personal issues that included complications from Graves’ disease. The production company behind her talk show, Debmar-Mercury, said in an October 2021 statement, “Wendy continues to be under medical supervision and meets with her medical team on a daily basis. She is making progress but is experiencing serious complications as a direct result of Graves’ disease and her thyroid condition. It has been determined that more time is needed before she is able to return to her live hosting duties.”
The following month, Williams told her Instagram followers that she was still working to get her health back on track, but that improvement was slow-going—and that she still doesn’t know when she’ll return to her show.
“HOW YOU DOIN’? I MISS YOU ALL!” Williams wrote. “As everyone knows, my health has been a hot topic. I’m making progress but it’s just one of those things that’s taking longer than we expected… [I] will return to my purple chair as soon as we all agree I’m ready.”
Then, according to a Feb. 8, 2022 story in PEOPLE, Williams was expected to miss the entirety of her talk show’s 2021-22 season.
“Wendy won’t be returning to the show for the rest of this season,” an insider told the outlet. “Her healing is going slower than everyone had hoped. She continues to deal with a number of medical issues, including Graves’ disease, and she and her team are taking it one day at a time.” Shepherd was named “permanent guest host” at the time and, reportedly, will transition to her own talk show with her own name on it come the fall of 2022.
To learn more, here’s what we know about Wendy Williams’ health issues.
Does Wendy Williams have Graves’ disease?
In 2018, Williams announced publicly that she had Graves’ disease. At the time, she also said she’d be taking three weeks off from her show to focus on her health. She noted that she was simultaneously dealing with menopause and college visits for her son Kevin Hunter Jr. “As women, we always put everything before us,” she told her audience. “Stop putting everyone first.” She also urged viewers to have their own health checked out.
She took another break in late 2018 due to a shoulder injury and was hospitalized in early 2019 for Graves’ disease-related issues. In 2020, Williams announced yet another break due to fatigue from Graves’ disease.
The host is aware of comments about her conditions and their common side effects. She once said in an Instagram story. “Stop asking me why I wear sneakers, I have lymphedema. Stop asking me why my eyes bulge, I’ve got Graves’ disease. Stop asking me, like, dumb mess! Can we connect on a more cerebral level?”
The swelling of the arms and legs caused by lymphedema makes it so that Williams has significant difficulty walking, according to the star. In 2019, she bought a special machine to help reduce her swelling symptoms. “Just Wendy with lymphedema machine. Forty-five minutes every day,” her show’s Instagram account posted at the time.
Lymphedema is also the likely reason that Williams prefers to sit. “[My feet] are discolored. They’re hardened. I can’t wear boots,” she explained on the air in March 2021. “I can’t believe in our comment section people say, why does she walk like that… if you see me in an airport, you’ll be like, is that Wendy in a wheelchair? Yup. I can’t even walk two city blocks. You know you got the numbness and whatnot.”
The next year, she said in a taped address to the Graves’ Disease and Thyroid Foundation Patients and Family Conference that a change in her thyroid medication could also be the culprit.
“I had the radioactive iodine [medication], taking my pill a day, minding my own business,” she said. She also admitted to feeling “weird in the head,” but thought it was just menopause or other life issues. ”So, it wasn’t until I passed out on my own show [in October] that… Anyway, life has completely changed.” She went on to say that “the doctors tell me it’s going to take at least six months—maybe a year—to level off my medication, which is why I always wear flats. I’m not wearing heels and falling and tripping,” admitting that her condition can sometimes make her feel off balance.
Did Wendy Williams have COVID-19?
Season 13 of Williams’ talk show was originally supposed to begin on Sept. 20, 2021. However, it was delayed because Williams was diagnosed with COVID-19. “While continuing her health evaluations, Wendy has tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19,” a statement on the show’s Instagram account read. “To allow Wendy time to quarantine and fully recover and to ensure that our production abides by all SAG/AFTRA and DGA Covid protocols, we expect to begin the 13th season of The Wendy Williams Show on Monday, October 4th.”
However, that date was moved as well. “Wendy will not be returning with new shows on Oct. 4,” read another statement posted on the show’s Instagram account. “She has been and continues to be under a doctor’s care and is still not ready to return to work. We plan to return with new shows on October 18.” The show said the host’s COVID diagnosis was no longer an issue but that she was dealing with “ongoing medical issues.”
Who is hosting The Wendy Williams Show while she’s out?
On October 18, the day Season 13 was set to premiere, there was a “Hot Topics Panel” which consisted of Bevy Smith, Elizabeth Wagmeister, Michael Yo and Devyn Simone. “Wendy, I know you’re watching right now, and on behalf of myself, our panel, your co-hosts, we love you and can’t wait to have you back in that purple chair,” Yo said.
Leah Remini, from King of Queens and The Talk, was also asked to step in, hosting from Oct. 19 through the 22nd. Whitney Cummings and Michael Rapaport have also sat in Williams’ purple chair in her absence, but Shepherd will now continue to fill in for Williams until further notice. (A rep for Shepherd told PEOPLE in February 2022, “Sherri is thrilled to be invited back to guest host the Wendy Williams Show the week of February 21st. No comment on these rumors [about Williams’ health].”