Wendy Williams Slammed By Fans After Imitating Joaquin Phoenix’s Cleft Lip

Wendy Williams has never seemed to shy away from speaking her mind. The talk show host has been known to call out celebrities over things she personally doesn’t agree with — and she’s certainly received her share of flak in return. However, on a recent episode of The Wendy Williams Show, Williams made a move that offended a variety of people. She imitated Joaquin Phoenix’s cleft lip, and suffice it to say, it has not gone over well.

Wendy Williams jokes about Joaquin Phoenix’s cleft lip

Wendy Williams
Wendy Williams | Lars Niki/Getty Images for New York Women in Film & Television

Joaquin Phoenix, who recently won the Golden Globe for Best Actor based on his performance in Joker, was born with a mild cleft lip. He bears a small, nonsurgical scar as a result. 

During the “Hot Topic” portion of her show, Wendy Williams discussed Joaquin Phoenix and his face. “When he shaves that off, and the way he looks at you. And he’s got that good nose, it dips way down. Like he’s happy with it,” said Williams, while making the shape of a long nose with her fingers. 

“And when he shaves off his mustache he’s got a hairline fracture. He’s got one of those, what do you call that, cleft lip, cleft palate.” Williams then inserted her finger under her upper lip and pulled it upwards in an aggressive imitation of a cleft lip. 

“He’s got this, he’s got this. No, I find it to be very attractive,” continued Williams with her finger still pulling her lip upwards.

Winnipeg Blue Bomber Adam Bighill calls for apology

Adam Bighill #4 of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Adam Bighill #4 of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers | Brent Just/Getty Images

Huffington Post notes that the cleft lip is the second-most common birth defect present in the United States. It can result in an upturned lip, which can affect tooth and bone development, speech, and eating ability. 

Wendy Williams’ comment didn’t go over well with Adam Bighill, Winnipeg Blue Bomber. Bighill himself was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, as was his son. As a result, he’s calling out Wendy Williams for her actions when discussing Joaquin Phoenix. 

Bighill tweeted, “This is @WendyWilliams making fun of the cleft community on her TV show. Are you kidding me??? We all have a responsibility to #EndBullying. With her platform, like myself, we have a much higher responsibility when it comes to our actions. This is just terrible.

Bighill has decided to continue to tweet at Wendy Williams until she makes a public apology for her actions on the show. He tweeted, “Thank you everyone for coming together, I can’t tell you what it means to me to see your love/support!! Well over 30k ppl have been a part of this! @WendyWilliams still owes a public apology to every1 of the cleft community. Please see my message/thoughts in the pics below.”

Fans react to Wendy Williams’ actions

Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix | Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Champagne Collet

Meanwhile, Adam Bighill isn’t the only person upset by Wendy Williams’ choice to imitate a cleft lip. One parent tweeted, “For a solid 10 seconds she used her finger to mimic a cleft lip while the audience laughed. Imagine how my 5 year old would take it if he saw it? @WendyWilliams I only speak on it bc I’m personally informed and educated on the topic. #bebetter Do work Twitter.”

A Reddit user wrote, “My son was also born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. The doctors at Sick Kids described it as one of the worse you could have and that they’d seen. We’ve done a lot of work to repair his facial difference and many days I don’t even think about how his cute little face is different from others. But then we go out into public, and people like Wendy Williams are the ones who actually point. They actually point and say out loud what’s happened to his face.”

Another user wrote, “I was born with a cleft lip and minorly into my palate but it was enough to disrupt my feeding habits and had to undergo surgery at 3 months old. I used to be so self-conscious about my scar and my lip, but I know that others with worse clefts have a higher risk of dying in infancy due to not being able to be fed normally. Joking or making fun of the condition is akin to making fun of someone with a disease to me. People die and are at risk of dying because of clefts as babies, and the surgeries and scars as a result should be respected as their proof of survival.”