WENDY WILLIAMS' publicist now says the TV icon has been 'exploited' in Lifetime doc despite encouraging her to sign up for it

Friday, March 01, 2024
 – Wendy Williams' publicist has slammed the Lifetime documentary that she signed her famous TV client up for.

Shawn Zanotti has placed blame on the producers of the series, alleging the TV icon believed she was filming a program about her comeback - only for filmmakers to capture 'a circus to her downfall.'

Zanotti, who has been working as a publicist for Williams since 2021, spoke with NBC News about her grievances with the making of Where is Wendy Williams?, a four-part documentary now airing on Lifetime.

In an interview with the outlet, Zanotti claimed: 'I felt that [Williams] was being exploited.'

'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.'

She also told PEOPLE that she felt 'lied to' about it.

Despite having encouraged her client to sign up for the show, Zanotti now says: "I would never let Wendy put her name and brand on the line like that ever. She's an icon. It's not the story we signed up for and I feel lied to.'

Adding: 'It's so difficult for me to even watch. Wendy would be mortified.'

Her remarks come four days too late - the debut episode of the documentary, Where Is Wendy Williams?, premiered on Lifetime on February 24.

Two days before the project was released, it was announced that Wendy had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia and primary progressive aphasia.

Zanotti claims the production company, Creature Films and eOne Television, approached her with the documentary back in 2022. The production company also shot the 2021 documentary about the TV icon, Wendy Williams: What A Mess!

Initially, Zanotti said Williams was eager to do the documentary and 'get my story out there' - however Zanotti was disappointed to see a different story air.

'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 claims, adding, 'There were a lot of good moments. None of those good moments were shown.'

The filmmakers have since claimed they did not know about Wendy's diagnosis at the time of production.

Showrunner Erica Hanson told TODAY: 'Some days, Wendy was on and very Wendy. Other days, she wasn’t. 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.'

Yet Zanotti does not believe they would have stopped even if they knew about her health.

'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.'

A now-sealed lawsuit was filed by Sabrina Morrissey, Wendy's guardian, on the day the TV icon's dementia diagnosis was revealed. The suit was filed in an effort to stop the documentary from airing, but a judge dismissed the case on the grounds of the First Amendment.

Zanotti claims she told Morrissey her issues about production at the time of filming and alleges the production company was 'aware' she had raised concerns.

However, she alleges she was ignored by production.

'Instead of them dealing with it with me, they decided to ignore me,' Zanotti claimed of production. 'They ignored me from that moment, and I never heard from them again.'

She also believes she was inaccurately portrayed in the documentary, aside from a scene in which she was reprimanded by Wendy, claiming there had been 'great, beautiful moments' that subsequently occurred.

It comes after Williams' brother, Tommy Williams, claimed his sister is 'stuck' in a treatment facility and wants her released.

The TV personality, 59, is currently receiving treatment for frontotemporal dementia, which her son claims is 'alcohol induced', and aphasia in an undisclosed facility in New York, where she's reportedly been since April 2023.

'I know that she is stuck and we are trying to unstick her. Her family is here and she doesn't need a facility. We are here to take care of her,' he told Us Weekly.

'All I want for her is freedom. We have a father who would love to see her,' he added.

He also expressed his frustration with not being able to see her, telling the publication: 'We're dealing with unknowns. We just want to be able to check in with her. I would fly up there [to New York], but where do I go? No one knows anything.'

Tommy added that communication between the TV host and her family has been difficult.

'We can't communicate unless someone patches us through,' he revealed.

'We wait for calls. I wait for calls from Wendy or my sister or whoever she can get to first and we can all hop on. When she makes that phone call [to us], we're committed to listening and sharing for the moment.'

Tommy added that it 'seems like forever' since he's seen his sister.

'It's because of the people who she is around. You can't leave. You're there as part of a program.'

'It's the one thing that is holding her and keeping her from communicating, traveling, and doing all the things she likes to do.'

The care team for the star announced her diagnosis of Aphasia and Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) in a press release on Thursday. They said Williams had undergone 'a battery of medical tests' before arriving at the diagnosis.

The statement noted that Williams had been diagnosed back in 2023. The talk show host has reportedly been living in a treatment facility since April 2023.

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