Publicist for Wendy Williams Criticizes Documentary, Alleging Exploitation of TV Star

by Jessica
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Wendy Williams

Wendy Williams, the former daytime talk show host, is the focus of an explosive documentary that some critics are calling exploitative.

In the new two-part Lifetime docuseries, “Where Is Wendy Williams,” the former host seems often disoriented and in one clip does not recognize her manager. In another scene, the same manager confronts her over empty liquor bottles found in her apartment.

One of those people, Shawn Zanotti, who is featured in the docuseries, slammed the producers behind it in an exclusive interview with NBC News.

“I felt that [Williams] was being exploited,” said Zanotti, who began working as Williams’ publicist in 2021. “She thought we were focusing on the comeback of her career. … She would be mortified. There’s no way you can convince me that she would be OK with looking and seeing herself in that way.”

Zanotti said she was first pitched the project by Creature Films and eOne Television in 2022. The same production company was behind another Lifetime documentary on the host’s life, “Wendy Williams: What a Mess!”

“When I mentioned [doing a documentary] to Wendy, she immediately said: ‘Yes, I would love to do it. I would love to be able to get my story out there,’” Zanotti said.

But what aired is not what Zanotti said was agreed upon.

“That is not the project that [Williams] signed up for. That’s not the project [the producers] brought to me. That’s not what I told her this was going to be about,” Zanotti said.

“There were a lot of good moments. None of those good moments were shown,” she added.

Just one day before the documentary aired, Williams’ management team announced in a statement that she was in a treatment facility, diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia. Zanotti, who has not spoken to Williams since she entered a treatment facility in April, said she is still employed as her publicist.

In an interview with TODAY.com, the filmmakers said they were not aware of Williams’ diagnosis during production, though they acknowledged that, “Some days, Wendy was on and very Wendy. Other days, she wasn’t.”

They moved forward with the project because, according to showrunner Erica Hanson, “We all felt this was a complex and sensitive story to tell, and we all felt a great responsibility to do it with dignity and sensitivity.”

But Zanotti is not buying that.

“I don’t think [the diagnosis] would have stopped them at all. The producers were asking questions throughout the entire time — would ask questions where she would somewhat seem confused, and I feel as though it was done to be intentional at that moment in time to make their storyline,” Zanotti said.

“Again, this was presented as a documentary to her, but to me, it looked as though it was a reality show of a circus, a circus to her downfall.”

The producers and Lifetime did not respond to requests for further comment.

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