‘Where Is Wendy Williams?’ Doc Explains Guardianship, Isolation From Family

‘Where Is Wendy Williams?’ Doc Explains Guardianship, Isolation From Family

The final episode of the four-part Lifetime documentary Where Is Wendy Williams? introduces a new character by way of former daytime talk show host Wendy Williams’ sister, Wanda, who, though initially hesitant, agreed to be a part of the film one year after production began.

“It has been a long journey in terms of the experience for our family and for Wendy,” Wanda says in the documentary. “I hope to come out of this letting people see the love that we have as a family together for each other as well as the love we have for Wendy, and to understand the journey we’ve been through that has not always been perfect. Everyone wanted the same thing, which is to see Wendy healthy and happy.”

Though Wanda doesn’t appear onscreen until part four of the documentary series, Wendy Williams, who is an executive producer of the project, makes mention of her sister in episode one, which aired Feb. 24. When asked about rumors that she’s still battling substance abuse issues, Williams tells producers, “I love vodka and the problem is with Wanda; she’s my sister. I love Wanda, but she hates that I love alcohol.”

Wanda helps ground her family’s plight in attempting to take back ownership of Williams’ care from her court-appointed guardian, who has now been identified as Sabrina Morrissey following a Thursday legal complaint seeking to block the series, which was vacated, allowing the series to air as planned. This also comes amid the documentary’s revelation of a cognitive disorder that differs from the diagnosis of primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia that was announced by Williams’ team in a press release two days prior to the documentary’s release. The family’s concerns about who has access to Williams and the intentions of those individuals also come to a head, as the limited personal rights of the guardianship under which Williams has been placed play out onscreen. (Williams also released a rare statement Friday via her rep.)

Here are the biggest questions raised from parts three and four of Where Is Wendy Williams?

Williams’ family says she’s been diagnosed with alcohol-induced dementia

In part four of the documentary, Williams returns to Miami to visit with her family nearly a year after her last trip in the fall of 2021. When a producer asks Williams’ son, Kevin Hunter Jr., why his mom came to stay with them during her previous visit, he reveals that doctors told him she was suffering from alcohol-induced dementia. “From taking her to appointments and things like that, I was able to really learn more about things going on with my mother internally,” he says. “They basically said that because she was drinking so much it was starting to affect her headspace and her brain.”

Williams’ niece, TV anchor Alex Finnie, shares that she found out about her aunt’s diagnosis through her family one year later, in the fall of 2022. “All I know is that it was dementia,” she explains in the doc. “You look back at little things and it’s a slow roll, right? It’s little things like, ‘When’s your birthday again?’ ‘What’s his name again?’ But after seeing my aunt and really spending time with her in the state where she’s in right now, I quickly realized that things were just not normal. It’s heartbreaking.”

Reiterating the factors that contributed to Williams’ increased alcohol use, as discussed in parts one and two of the documentary, Alex states, “When it’s come to my aunt’s dementia, there are three things that didn’t help her: divorce, the pandemic and then losing my grandmother.”

Williams can’t make any decisions without her guardian’s consent

Though Williams’ guardianship has been positioned as solely financial, Morrissey legally has control over all aspects of the media personality’s life, including if and when she can travel, where she lives, and with whom she has contact and when.

Near the end of part four, Williams’ manager Will Shelby, one of few people who has access to her, tells producers she’s expressed the desire to one day move to Miami, where her family resides. Asked by producers whether that relocation would need to be approved by the court, Shelby replies, “Everything with Wendy is a court decision, everything. She’s not making any decisions on her own. Everything has to be decided by the court.”

Audiences were given a glimpse into how much control Williams’ guardian has over her comings and goings in part three of the documentary when her publicist, Shawn Zanotti, flies Williams to Los Angeles in March of 2023 to meet with NBC about returning to television without Shelby or Morrissey’s knowledge. NBC declined to comment on the meeting to producers, but Shelby expressed his discontent both with Williams and Zanotti, before telling producers, “I don’t even know how the guardianship feels about this.”

Bleeping out Morrissey’s name — as her identity had remained private in court-sealed documents at the time of production — he goes on to say, “[Blank] texted me asking me, ‘Is Wendy in L.A.?’ I ignored her. I don’t even know what to tell her ‘cuz now she’s gonna look at me like, ‘How did you let Wendy go up to L.A.?’ So now, she’s not going to trust me. They don’t understand the position they put me in. I’m just pissed.”

Even before Williams was officially placed under a court-ordered guardianship, her rights and those of her family started to be stripped from them, Hunter says in the doc.

“My power of attorney was taken away from me when the court proceeding started,” he explains. “And then they tried to say that while the court case was going on that if we wanted to bring her to Florida, it’d be considered kidnapping.”

Wendy Williams and manager Will Selby, courtesy of Lifetime.

Calvin Gayle

Williams’ family thinks she’s being taken advantage of

Zanotti was already seen as a questionable figure by Williams’ family, particularly by her niece Finnie, who greets her coldly when she finds Zanotti at home with her aunt in New York when she comes to visit. Soon after, Finnie excuses herself before telling producers she doesn’t want to film with Williams’ publicist.

“This is my aunt, and I don’t need her [Zanotti] in the room. I’m not doing that. I don’t even know who this person is,” Alex says before bursting into tears. “This is all very jarring. Like, what is going on?”

Alex decides to ask her aunt just that after Zanotti excuses herself when her attempts to comfort Williams’ niece aren’t received. Finnie is heard muttering under her breath, “I don’t need your fake, using behind in the middle of my relationship,” before Zanotti leaves.

Finnie then turns her attention to her aunt, whom she tells bluntly, “I’m just trying to understand. Like, what you pay her and she’s your friend?” When Williams answers in the affirmative, Alex attempts to reason with her.

“I’ll be honest with you. It’s no secret that there have been random people around you getting money, getting paid, whatever the case may be. I’m just trying to figure out your friend that you’re saying is your friend that you’re also paying. It’s giving a little desperate energy. You are an A-list celebrity. You are bigger than this. You are better than this. You are smarter than this. You are stronger than this. The Aunt Wendy that I know, that has instilled in me how to navigate this crazy business that we’re in, this isn’t it,” Finnie says before adding, “Listen to the people in your life that are not taking a dime.”

Williams’ family has always wanted to be her guardian

In part four, Williams’ family makes it clear that they’ve always wanted to be in charge of her care and had expectations that they would in fact be.

“The decision to bring her to Florida was between us and the show,” Williams’ nephew Travis Finnie says of Williams’ visit to Miami in 2021 in the doc. “It was a group decision. The decision to keep her in Florida, extended, was a family decision and that’s where the show and the family started to disagree and the financial adviser. They saw that she was down here for too long, and our priority wasn’t just to dust her up and then put her back onstage, it was to actually focus on long-term recovery, and that’s when they started fighting this.”

Still, after Williams was ordered back to New York in April of 2022 for court proceedings regarding potential guardianship, her family believed she would remain in their care.

“When the whole process started, all members of this family were contacted about Wendy and what we needed for her,” Wanda explains. “My feeling as her sister was that Wendy needs to have somebody with her 24 hours a day for the next few months. I was asked, would I consider being a guardian? And I said, ‘I don’t know what being a guardian involves.’ I was told that it involved taking some kind of class, and I said, ‘Yeah I’ll do it.’ I said, ‘Whatever I gotta do, I’ll be focused on Wendy’s health.’ And then all of a sudden, the wall came down and there was nothing.”

Williams’ family maintains that when she returned to New York, things got progressively worse, with her nephew saying that once when he flew to New York to visit, Williams would just “sit in bed all day with bottles of vodka.”

“I think that the guardianship system is broken,” Wanda later says in the episode. “If this is how it works, then it’s broken.”

Her remarks underscore similar feelings Hunter shares in part three of the documentary.

“I feel like the guardian has not done a good job of protecting my mom, and I feel like Will is a jeweler at the end of the day,” he says of her manager, Shelby. “I think he’s trying to do his best. At the same time, dealing with my mom is a very intense job to have that a lot of people can’t handle.”

Asked by producers what his concerns are if something drastic doesn’t change, Hunter admits, “I’m afraid that she could die.”

When given a final chance to set the record straight about the court’s implication that her family wasn’t capable of taking care of Williams, Wanda tells producers, “I don’t know what ‘not capable’ means. You’ve had people in the family from the beginning saying that we would take responsibility with regard to guardianship and personal needs to ensure that she was healthy and taken care of.”

Emphasizing her family’s pure intentions, Wanda adds, “I’m not talking about her money. You put money over here. They’re people in this family that care more about the well-being of my sister than anyone. All I want is for my sister to be healthy.”

Williams’ whereabouts are currently unknown by her family

As the documentary’s title foreshadows, Williams’ family currently can’t answer the question of where she is.  

“I don’t know the exact location of where she is, but I know that she is in an environment that is helping her to heal, emotionally, psychologically and physically,” Wanda says when probed by producers. “That’s what I hope happens when she gets home.”

Asked where home is, she admits, “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on with the apartments in New York.”

In one of the last scenes in the documentary, the apartment that Williams was shown in throughout the entirety of the taping is seen vacant. When the producers, who stopped filming in April 2023 amid concerns for Williams’ well-being, ask Alex if she was aware that her aunt’s apartment was cleaned out and put on the market while she was in a wellness facility, she confesses that she wasn’t. Wanda also says that she hasn’t had contact with Williams’ guardian in over a year and that access to her sister is sporadic.

“I communicated with her in July,” she says. “She will call me and then all of a sudden there is no communication.” Finnie also spoke about this on The View last week.

The family is hopeful about her prognosis, though. Their perception on her health seemingly aligns with the statement that was released by her team Thursday, in which they claimed, “Wendy is still able to do many things for herself. Most importantly she maintains her trademark sense of humor and is receiving the care she requires to make sure she is protected and that her needs are addressed.”

Shelby, at the end of the documentary, says that Williams is currently sober and getting back to her old self, which Wanda appears to have seen evidence of through phone communication.

“Wendy’s in a more positive place and in a stronger place than she was a year ago,” she says in the doc. “It’s almost like I’m talking to Wendy from years ago. It really is. She said, ‘Family is very important, Wanda. I realize that I need to be with my family. I’m ready to move on.’ Her resilience is unparalleled, it’s unmatched,” Wanda adds through tears. “I know people go through a lot of stuff every day. She has withstood attack after attack after attack. She is my hero because even now with what she’s going through, to be able to withstand it and still come back, to still have conversations, that takes a special person. So she will always be my hero. I will do whatever has to be done to help her be healthy.”

The end title card for the series says that, at the time the documentary was completed, Williams’ family was still unable to see her in person. It adds that, per New York State Mental Hygiene Law, Article 81.31, the court must conduct a review of her guardianship every year.

Read the biggest revelations from night one of Where Is Wendy Williams?

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