Advertisement

Wendy Williams documentary criticized, producers express regret. How did we get here?

"Horrifying." "Disturbing." "Exploitative."

These are just some of the reactions that have trickled out in the wake of the new documentary series "Where Is Wendy Williams?" that aired on Lifetime Feb. 24 and 25 – only days after Wendy Williams' aphasia and frontotemporal dementia diagnosis was made public. (The documentary was previously promoted and set to air.)

The documentary shows the former talk show host struggling with her health, including the autoimmune disorder Graves' disease. It also deals with Williams being placed under a financial guardianship in 2022. She says she has "no money" as a result. We see her lash out at those around her without warning. We see her cry. We see her … unlike herself.

"This feels so exploitative," one X user wrote. "I’m actually uncomfortable watching this. She’s absolutely vulnerable & I don’t know who has her utmost good in mind that decided to produce & air this." Another added: "I am not joking when I say I am triggered." Producers have since insisted they were not aware of her dementia diagnosis and would not have filmed if they knew.

"Of course, if we had known that Wendy had dementia going into it, no one would’ve rolled a camera," producer Mark Ford told The Hollywood Reporter.

Many have long wondered what's been going on with Williams – but this documentary and newly-confirmed diagnosis prove that no one – famous or otherwise – is immune to heartbreak and crisis and everyone deserves privacy when they withhold or obscure details.

"Public figures need privacy to cope, heal, and develop a strategy to move forward just like everyone else," Amy Morin, psychotherapist, author of "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do" and the host of a podcast, previously told USA TODAY. "Working through issues privately can give them space to manage their emotions and strategize how to move forward without the distraction of outside opinions."

'Where Is Wendy Williams?': The biggest bombshells from Lifetime's documentary

"Horrifying." "Disturbing." "Exploitative."

These are just some of the reactions that have trickled out in the wake of the new documentary series "Where Is Wendy Williams?" that aired on Lifetime Feb. 24 and 25.
"Horrifying." "Disturbing." "Exploitative." These are just some of the reactions that have trickled out in the wake of the new documentary series "Where Is Wendy Williams?" that aired on Lifetime Feb. 24 and 25.

'They have not forfeited their human need'

Williams has thanked well-wishers for their supportive response amid her diagnosis.

"I want to say I have immense gratitude for the love and kind words I have received after sharing my diagnosis of Aphasia and Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). Let me say, wow! Your response has been overwhelming," Williams said in a statement released to The Associated Press through a representative for her care team. "The messages shared with me have touched me, reminding me of the power of unity and the need for compassion."

We don't know an exact timeline of how this diagnosis played out amid the documentary's filming, but we know there's been tension; Williams' guardian filed a lawsuit to prevent it from airing. Still, people have long been wondering what's been going on with Williams – hence the documentary's title – perhaps overriding their thoughtfulness about her privacy.

The public often insists they deserve to know all the ins and outs of celebrities lives. Lines blur when the person presented the world isn't always the same person behind closed doors.

"If we put ourselves in their shoes, we would want to be able to have a private life especially when dealing with sensitive or difficult issues," Laura Petiford, a licensed marriage and family therapist, previously told USA TODAY. "Yes, they have chosen to lead a life that is more in the public eye but they have not forfeited their human need to draw a distinct line between themselves and those who are interested in them."

But you'd want the same privacy for yourself during life's cruelest moments, wouldn't you?

"We need privacy to not only cope with the situation, but to also try to makes sense of what has happened or is happening to us and try to figure out how to move on," psychologist Reneé Carr previously told USA TODAY.

In case you didn't see: This woman is living with terminal cancer. She's documenting her story on TikTok.

'Outside opinions' not helpful

Maybe watching the documentary is making you reflect on your own attitudes toward health and your loved ones.

If you're struggling on how to think about Williams – or maybe how to talk to a sick individual in your life – keep it simple. "Outside opinions about treatments and suggestions about how to proceed aren't helpful," Morin says.

Generally speaking: "You can be sensitive to someone's health struggles without knowing the details," Morin says. "You can wish the person well without knowing what's wrong. And you can let them know you're thinking of them without understanding the extent of their treatment."

Contributing: Brendan Morrow

Awful: Wendy Williams, like Bruce Willis, has aphasia, frontotemporal dementia. What to know.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wendy Williams documentary producers regret filming: What we can learn