Not everything has to be complicated.
They were married for 21 years, but it only took about a week after Wendy Williams filed for divorce from Kevin Hunter to excise her husband-slash-manager from her daily life. Her first order of business (after having him served with divorce papers at 6:30 a.m.): making it clear that Hunter was no longer welcome on the set of her eponymous talk show.
"Kevin Hunter is no longer an executive producer on The Wendy Williams Show," a show spokesperson confirmed to E! News on the morning of April 18, 2019, eight days after Williams' divorce petition was filed in New Jersey. "[Show distributor] Debmar-Mercury wishes him well in his future endeavors."
Who doesn't love a little shade cloaked in politesse?
Hunter had been an executive producer on the show since its debut in 2008—and irking people who worked for them for almost as long.
"Having Kevin on set was stressful and made for a tense working environment," a source shared as news of his exit surfaced. "Wendy is relieved."
And she's hardly alone, considering the outpouring of concern for Williams' well-being in the days leading up to her difficult and, to some, long overdue decision to leave her double-life-living husband.
On his end, Hunter's public reaction in the wake of the split was gracious and contrite.
"28 years ago I met an amazing woman: Wendy Williams. At the time, I didn't realize that she would not only become my wife, but would also change the face of entertainment and the world," he said in a statement to E! News a few days after being served with divorce papers. "I have dedicated most of our lives to the business empire that is Wendy Williams Hunter, a person that I truly love and respect unconditionally.
"I am not proud of my recent actions and take full accountability and apologize to my wife, my family and her amazing fans. I am going through a time of self-reflection and am trying to right some wrongs."
"Several weeks ago, Wendy and Kevin had a confrontation over his alleged mistress. Kevin admitted to the affair and to fathering the child," a source told E! News at the time.
The news sent Williams, who as recently as that March had been living in a sober house, "over the edge and she relapsed," the insider continued. "After recovering from the relapse, Wendy made the difficult decision to divorce Kevin. It was a very hard choice for her, but she finally realized she had to put her health and well-being first."
After weeks of putting on her usual show but seeming not quite her high-energy herself to her live audiences once the cameras weren't rolling, she returned to top form once she had made her decision.
Almost as if a weight has been lifted from her shoulders, or something like that.
"Wendy was so unbelievably incredible today," gushed a member of the audience at her show's April 15 taping. "She came out and went into what's going on at the sober house and Kevin in a way that you can tell she's, like, back." Added another, "She didn't say Kevin's name but you could tell there were certain times when she was talking about him and making little jabs."
Williams didn't mention Hunter by name, as she tended not to do while addressing their rumored marital issues on past occasions, but not saying his name carried extra symbolism this time. As in, Kevin who?
As per the rules and regulations of the "Hot Topics bureau," Williams said, "now my business is your business." She started laughing, adding, "It's kinda funny!"
"I can tell you this, I had a really good weekend," she continued. "I got together with my girls—I told you, I have my sober friends, six of them, they're really good, and two of them are my sponsors." She elaborated on their food situation for a minute, revealing that she had leftover peanut noodles from a three-hour dinner she had with her sister, Wanda, who had traveled up to New York from Miami to be there for her.
"It's nice to spend time with your sister. They correct some of the things you do wrong and they help you when you're not doing enough," Williams said, "and they tell you how to do it."
She would be moving out of the sober house in a few days, she added, and Williams had "a whole new life" planned for herself and her son, now 19-year-old Kevin Hunter Jr.
"Addressing my sobriety, my addiction head-on, has really helped me sort out every single compartment in my life," Williams told her audience, which applauded enthusiastically as she took a sip of tea. "I have a commitment to me and my son to come out of here better, stronger and faster than ever—and by the way, I will still commit—'cause you'll forget about my business any moment now—I commit that the motto of this show will always be 'their business is our business!'"
Moving on to a clip of Cardi B, Wendy, in her first reference to being single, noted that she was "distracted by that chocolate gumdrop [Cardi's bodyguard] over her shoulder. Back it up now, I'm on the loose. Hold on..."
"I got security, and no disrespect, fellas," she quipped, "...but nobody looks like this." (TMZ reported that she hired three full-time security guards about a week before she filed her divorce papers on April 10.)
Williams also made a reference to having babies, saying, "women who've crossed through menopause, the one thing we never have to worry about again is that," as she pointed to her belly.
"'Cause I don't know about you but my diaper-changing days are over." Followed by another sip of tea. "Moving on...," she added, feigning innocence.
Another appreciative audience member told E! News that Wendy's "energy was incredible. After the taping she spent awhile thanking the audience, saying she wouldn't be here without us." (In the weeks leading up to the divorce, Williams hadn't been interacting with the audience as much.) "She took a bunch of selfies and seemed really happy to be here."
A bodyguard was close at hand throughout.
The next day, Christie Brinkley, a four-time divorcée, offered Williams help finding a good lawyer if she needed one.
"I will whisper to you during the break," Williams replied. "I have one, but I want to hear what you say."
By then she had already leased a new home in New York and had been seen going back and forth from the gym, Pilates being her go-to workout.
That same week, a photographer caught up with her (and one of her ever-present bodyguards) on her way to Pilates and told her that her fans were happy for her. Williams brightly replied, "I'm happy for me, too!"
Yet while maintaining the courage of her convictions is vintage Williams, she was struggling for months leading up to her decision to leave Hunter.
After going on her scheduled holiday break toward the end of 2018, Williams ended up not returning to her show until March 4, 2019, when she emotionally revealed she'd been living in the sober house and had suffered a shoulder injury that required surgery that December.
Her first guest host while she was gone, Nick Cannon, assured the audience at the beginning of February that he had talked to Wendy, that she had her family around her, and she would be back soon. But fans couldn't help but be concerned for her, as reports of her being out of sorts and perhaps off the wagon (she has been frank about her past struggles with drugs and addiction) piled up.
Meanwhile, rumors of discontent behind the scenes at The Wendy Williams Show started popping up as well, including a Daily Mail report that the staff would be happy if Cannon replaced their boss full-time.
The former America's Got Talent host quickly shot that down, but the rumored consensus was that the show team was mainly hoping that Williams would return without her husband.
"Just remember—the show is called Wendy. So it needs Wendy Williams back—but when she comes back, she better not bring Kevin back with her because we've all had enough of him," a show source told the Mail Online.
Incidentally, The Wendy Williams Show had already been renewed through the 2019-2020 season, and that has since been extended through 2021-2022, matching Williams' current contract with Lionsgate.
"Wendy is family to us, and post-AM news, her program jump-starts the day in our markets," Frank Cicha, executive vice president of programming for Fox Television Stations, stated in September. "Plus, she's got enough wigs to make sure the show never gets stale." (Right now, as all of her fellow hosts are doing, Williams is interviewing guests remotely and taping her show from home while social-distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The extra nod of appreciation came when she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in October.
"This has been a really tough year for me, you know," Williams told E! News at the ceremony. "It's been a tough year personally, it's been a tough year professionally... Getting my son adjusted to college in Miami, me getting adjusted to being 55 and hormonal. Needing to moisturize," she laughed.
Her reluctance to leave Hunter, or even to be more open about their issues, had left her fans (and eventually anyone paying attention to the increasingly scandalous news) puzzled, as her seemingly authentic no-nonsense candor has always been such a huge part of her appeal.
Of course such matters, especially when they include business and money—Hunter having been her manager and partner in Wendy Williams Productions as well as her husband and the father of her son—are way more complicated than just a desire to appease the court of public opinion.
With Williams rumored to be worth around $60 million, legal experts predicted that theirs could end up being one of the juicier celebrity divorces we'd seen in awhile—but unlike the case with many famous couples, the mudslinging never materialized (how much more scandalous could the circumstances of their split have gotten, anyway?) and a judge signed off on their divorce agreement in January.
Per court documents obtained by E! News, neither would pay alimony, and Williams became the sole owner of their previously shared production company, Wendy Inc. They also planned to evenly split the proceeds from their New Jersey home, which is on the market, once it sells.
They also would be responsible for paying their own attorney fees.
But though her ability to whip the Internet up into a frenzy with one comment is still unparalleled, Williams continues to errs on the side of caution when it comes to spilling her personal tea, no matter how much she literally sips it on camera.
You never know what else she might have to say, though, down the road. In her 2001 memoir Wendy's Got the Heat, she described in detail how she found out, about a month after their son was born, that Hunter was cheating on her.
"I wanted to kill him. I mean really kill him. For real. I wanted to kill him more because I was in the process of breaking my Number One Rule: No Cheating," she wrote.
In turn, she was candid about choosing to forgive him, acknowledging to Vlad TV in 2013, "If you told me when I was 25 years old, or 30 years old, that I would stay around for a cheater, I would've been like, 'you's a liah, you are lying, I've got way too much to offer a man to stick around for him cheating on me.' But I did, and I don't regret it. I do think it's a double standard with cheating. I think that you men are just sometimes so neanderthal that you could never put up with your woman cheating, a man putting paws on your meat. But women have got to deal with that fact, many of us, at some point in our lives."
As she also wrote in her book, "What I learned is that if you make mistakes, learn from them and move on and above all else be true to yourself—don't try to fit into a mold of what someone else thinks you should be."
However, she also told Vlad TV that an open relationship was "a recipe for disaster," mainly because it's usually just one person actually living that life.
"For the life of me, I would never do that—but you know what I've noticed? Open relationships seemed cute and worked for these couples...and I kind of enjoyed being friends with them...but guess what's happened? As the women have gotten older, 'cause now we're all around 50, they've slowed down on this notion, and the husbands still want it."
Yet when the Daily Mail reported in 2017 that Hunter had been basically living a double life, married to Wendy but dating Sharina Hudson for the past 10 years, in the wake of that explosive news she assured her audience that "all [was] well in Hunterville."
But she had also written in her book that she would leave if her husband if he ever lied to her about the nature of his relationship with another woman, such as "if he was in love, if she was just as successful at what she does as I am in my career, if she had his baby." Unfortunately, she ended up with a chance to walk the walk.
But, true to form, since pulling the plug on her marriage she is moving on with her head held high. (And, back when people were leisurely going outside in February, sometimes on the arm of jeweler William Selby—though she insisted they were just friends.)
"Yeah, it's been a tough year," she reiterated to E! News in October at her Walk of Fame ceremony. "But all in all, I feel like a winner, I do. Today solidifies the winner that I feel like."
(Originally published April 18, 2019, at 12:47 p.m. PT)