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Where Is Wendy Williams? introduced longtime fans to the firebrand’s family and employees. This included Wendy Williams’ publicist, Shawn Zanotti.

Viewers of the Lifetime docuseries expressed mixed emotions over Wendy’s actions, particularly how she initially spoke to her publicist. Then, concerned moved to the publicist and if she had Wendy’s best interest at heart.

While some argued that Wendy’s actions could not be helped it due to her dementia diagnosis, others were reminded how vulnerable that made Wendy from people who would want to take advantage of her.

Wendy Williams and Shawn Zanotti on the couch during the Lifetime documentary.
Even though Wendy Williams railed against her manager while speaking to publicist Shawn Zanotti, she also had unkind words for Zanotti. (Image Credit: Lifetime)

Wendy Williams is unwell

Her own team very recently revealed that Wendy Williams has primary progressive aphasia and frontotemporal dementia.

Primary progressive aphasia means that there is damage to the parts of her brain that process speech and language. Frontotemporal dementia means a series of worsening symptoms, from language to motor control, and a reduced life expectancy.

This grim news came just days before the premiere of Lifetime’s Where Is Wendy Williams? docuseries, which began its deep dive into the TV personality’s troubled life on Saturday, February 24.

Publicist Shawn Zanotti appears in the Wendy Williams documentary in 2024.
Shawn Zanotti is Wendy Williams’ publicist. She appears in Where Is Wendy Williams, bearing the brunt of a verbally and emotionally abusive workplace environment. (Image Credit: Lifetime)

To put it bluntly, Wendy’s state of mind is vividly on display during the docuseries. It filmed between August 2022 and April of 2023.

Wendy speaks openly about her fondness for alcohol. The docuseries also delves into her health and history of drug abuse.

Wendy’s mobility is also an issue, as her lymphedema has radically altered her life. Early on, we see that she is preparing to move to a new apartment — one that is a single story, so that she can get around more easily.

Wendy Williams sits beside Shawn Zanotti.
On the Lifetime docuseries, Where Is Wendy Williams, the titular Wendy Williams sits with publicist Shawn Zanotti. (Image Credit: Lifetime)

The Wendy Williams docuseries is controversial

A lot of fans are expressing concern. There is a fine line between documentation and exploitation, and it doesn’t seem that Wendy fully understands the angle that the docuseries is taking.

Of course, many viewers get the feeling that producers had no idea what they’d be seeing, hearing, and recording before they began this project.

At times, Wendy seems unable to follow conversations — even though other moments show her lucid and humorous. Some of the interview subjects are more willing to discuss her cognitive decline than others.

Wendy Williams pulls down her top and offers to pull it down farther.
During the Where Is Wendy Williams docuseries, the titular star discusses how much she enjoys being “free” from her TV career and thus able to dress, or undress, how she likes. (Image Credit: Lifetime)

One of the most polarizing aspects of Where Is Wendy Williams? has been how Wendy treats others during it.

At one moment, she verbally attacks a nail tech, demanding to know “Are you stupid?” She also rants about people who work closely with her.

One of the primary targets of Wendy Williams’ wrath, from what the cameras show, appears to be her publicist: Shawn Zanotti.

Wendy WIlliams speaks loudly to Shawn Zanotti.
A furious Wendy Williams speaks her mind to publicist Shawn Zanotti. (Image Credit: Lifetime)

Wendy Williams give publicist Shawn Zanotti a hard time

On camera, Wendy calls Shawn a “dumbass” over how she returns a jacket to the closet. She is repeatedly impatient with her.

During one horrifying moment, Wendy blurts out her “wish” that Shawn would undergo liposuction. That would be awful under any circumstances, but is particularly vile as a way to treat an employee.

Wendy became irate when Shawn couldn’t locate the right vape, and seemed to lash out when things weren’t exactly how she wanted them.

Wendy Williams smiles.
Wendy Williams smiles during the Where Is Wendy Williams docuseries. (Image Credit: Lifetime)

This is where viewers are finding themselves with wildly different takeaways.

Some are condemning Wendy’s behavior, even noting that dementia is not an “excuse” for this kind of verbal abuse. Others defend the talk show host, pointing out that she likely has no idea how rude she’s actually being.

Yet others have expressed suspicions as to why Shawn Zanotti is putting up with this. Who is this publicist that’s keeping this job instead of finding something less abusive? What’s her angle?

A few social media denizens have even gone so far as to accuse her of “stealing” from Wendy amidst the talk show legend’s diminished net worth. Indeed, even Wendy’s own family is rather suspicious of the woman when they meet her.

Wendy WIlliams on the docuseries.
Wendy Williams looks intently in the camera while cracking jokes on the February 2024 docuseries. (Image Credit: Lifetime)

Who is Shawn Zanotti?

Shawn is the CEO of her own publicity company. She is the author of a PR guide book. And, at times, she ends up just doing things around the house because Wendy wants her to – or because she’s hoping to gain Wendy’s favor.

According to what she told the cameras, she has “thick skin” and can deal with Wendy’s insults. Ultimately, it looks like Shawn had ulterior motives.

But while Wendy has an excuse, viewers watch as this woman seemingly ignores all of the warning signs and red flags about Wendy’s condition.

Consider that, against everyone’s objection – Wendy’s family, her manager, even her guardian – Shawn takes Wendy to Los Angeles for a meeting about starting a new talk show. Plus, she lets her drink before meeting with network execs.

What was there to gain from this manipulation other than money? Wendy’s niece sees the writing on the wall almost instantly. At one point, she actually refuses to film scenes with Wendy because Shawn, show she “doesn’t know” inserts herself into their visit.

Later, Will, Wendy’s manager, has it out with Shawn in a private meeting after the Los Angeles trip and after that point, Shawn is never seen again.

Does Shawn still work for Wendy?

Multiple sources have confirmed to The U.S. Sun that Wendy’s publicist Shawn hasn’t worked for the ailing star for awhile. We can presume that this change happened after the disastrous LA trip, or at the very least when Wendy checked into a treatment center.

In an interview after the documentary aired, Shawn slammed the project, claiming it “exploits” Wendy.

“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,” Shawn said. 

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

Meanwhile, her jeweler-turned-manager, Will, is said to be in contact with the star but not on a professional basis.