How you doin’? If you’re a guest of The Wendy Williams Show who shows up in drag, pretty terrible. New York City drag diva Ericka Toure Aviance thought Wendy — a walking drag queen herself — would enjoy the costume. Instead, Aviance found herself being singled out in her seating arrangements, and warned by the staff that her “costume” was over the top and inappropriate for the cameras.
Ms. Williams, who just ditched her radio show to devote more time to her daytime talker, made a career out of big hair, big boobs, big hips, big heels, and big talk. And supposedly, she admires cross-dressing men who do the same. Apparently, her staff and production team doesn’t share that feeling. (Aviance, who identifies as female on her MySpace page, also dresses as a man, like most queens.)
As Aviance tells The Advocate, she wore “a black baby-doll dress, heels, tights, and standard makeup — not even anything sparkly … a ponytail piece and a bang piece. It was much less hair than Wendy was wearing and, p.s., much less hair than any of the other black women in the audience.” But The Wendy Williams Show has a policy against outlandish dress, apparently, and Aviance’s outfit was too much.
While standing in line outside the studio Wednesday morning, the group was approached by a female intern who noted the fact that Aviance was a drag queen. “She took my name down, so we thought we were about to get VIP treatment,” Aviance recalls. “After another hour we got to the door, and there’s this little white man standing there giving us the eyeball. He gets in our way to prevent us from going in, and he says, ‘You’re in violation of our no-costumes dress code. We usually don’t do this, but we know you’ve been waiting out there for a while, so we’re going to let you in. But you can’t appear on camera, and if you get up for Hot Topics or try to ask Wendy a question, you’ll be removed from the building.’
[...] Aviance claims that, once seated, another staffer approached them to rearrange the seating so that Aviance was moved away from the aisle and against the perimeter of the seating area. In the row ahead, a short woman and a tall man were then asked to switch seats so that the tall man blocked Aviance.
So how did Debmar-Mercury, which syndicates the show, respond? “Producers at The Wendy Williams Show never intended to offend Ericka Toure Aviance, but the fact of the matter is that the show does request that audience members dress appropriately, not in costume-like attire. We certainly support the LGBTQ community and believe that personal style is a form of self-expression, as evidenced by our host Wendy Williams each and every day. But in this case, our staff was concerned that Ericka Toure’s attire was over-the-top and would be distracting to fans at home.”
Meanwhile, Wendy herself has proclaimed her appreciation for the drag community — or at least declared that being compared to a drag queen isn’t a bad thing.
Then again, is was back in 2007 that Clay Cane pondered about Williams’ support for queers: “Around the time Wendy became nationally syndicated, I noticed her support for the gay community seeming to waver. For example, one time she was chatting about the Harlem Boys Choir, insinuating she would never allow her son to join the choir because there were too many “how you doings” [Williams' slang for the gays] and she didn’t want her son to be molested.”
The show’s reaction to a drag audience member isn’t likely to die anytime soon (especially since Aviance went to the show with Jonny “Gay Pimp” McGovern, who already wrote about the incident on his Facebook page), and certainly from this point forward, all Wendy Williams coverage on this website will include mention of what happened.
So how does Ms. Wendy recover? Address the issue immediately and apologize. If not via statement, then definitely on Monday’s episode. Invite Aviance on the show. Say you’re sorry, on behalf of your staff. Reaffirm your commitment to the LGBTs. And if you’re really feeling generous, give Ms. Aviance a chance to perform.
YOU TELL US:
UPDATE: The show has apologized. Says Debmar-Mercury programming exec Lonnie Burstein in a statement: “Much of the success of The Wendy Williams Show is due to our incredibly diverse and colorful audience and we all agree that fashion is a true form of self expression. But in an attempt to explain and enforce our show’s dress code, I was not as sensitive as I could have been to Ericka, the LGBT community or drag’s long history of being a target of discrimination. And for that, I sincerely apologize as it was never my intention to offend in any way.” Fine, but we still say they should let Aviance perform on the show.