Wendy Williams diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia and aphasia, reps say

Wendy Williams in a grey sleeveless dress and drop pearl earring smiling
Former TV host Wendy Williams has been diagnosed with aphasia and dementia. (Omar Vega / Invision / Associated Press)
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Wendy Williams, who left her daytime talk show amid health and personal struggles two years ago, has been diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia.

The beloved TV personality's representatives confirmed her diagnosis in a statement shared with multiple outlets on Thursday. The statement details concerns over the 59-year-old star's difficulty to process information, noting that she "began to lose words, act erratically at times, and have difficulty understanding financial transactions."

The statement continued: “The decision to share this news was difficult and made after careful consideration, not only to advocate for understanding and compassion for Wendy, but to raise awareness about aphasia and frontotemporal dementia and support the thousands of others facing similar circumstances," the release said.

Read more: Wendy Williams leaves wellness facility and says she's 'back and better than ever'

A representative for Williams did not immediately respond to The Times' request for comment Thursday.

The rep's missive added that people who have been diagnosed with aphasia and frontotemporal dementia are often subject to "stigma and misunderstanding" before their diagnosis.

Aphasia, a disease also afflicting "Die Hard" actor Bruce Willis, is a neurological condition that affects a person's ability to understand and communicate with others. The National Aphasia Assn. said the disease, which is "due to injury to the brain," impairs the ability to process language but does not affect intelligence.

Read more: What is frontotemporal dementia? The disease afflicting actor Bruce Willis is incurable

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD), also affecting Willis, is a progressive brain disease that impacts the frontal and anterior temporal lobes of the brain. It’s the most common form of dementia for people who are diagnosed under the age of 60. In 2023, UC San Francisco neurologist Dr. William Seeley said an estimated 50,000 people in the United States live with FTD. It's unclear what causes FTD.

The average life expectancy for people living with FTD is between seven and 13 years once symptoms are apparent, according to the Assn. for Frontotemporal Degeneration. Patients can take medications to alleviate FTD symptoms, but as of 2023 there was no treatment to stop or reverse the disease.

News of Williams' diagnosis broke shortly after reports that she was being treated at a facility, and just days before the Saturday premiere of Lifetime's "Where Is Wendy Williams?" The documentary follows the TV host and the physical, mental and financial struggles that loomed amid her TV departure in 2022.

"The Wendy Williams Show" concluded in 2022 after 13 seasons on air, though Williams was absent for her series finale. Williams' TV run ended as she faced health issues, including her ongoing battle with Graves’ disease, a thyroid-related autoimmune condition.

Read more: How's Wendy Williams doin'? She says she's booked, busy and a soon-to-be doctor

In September 2022, Williams entered a wellness facility to focus on her overall health "as she prepares for a major comeback," her publicist said at the time. Months later, the star left the facility feeling "back and better than ever."

Williams revealed during a November 2022 panel discussion — a rare public appearance after she left TV — that she was ready to move on from her daytime series and excited to enter a new chapter of her life, touting a self-titled podcast and an honorary doctorate from her alma mater, Northeastern University. She also spoke about her experience with lymphedema, which causes her feet and legs to swell.

Williams, who is an executive producer for the Lifetime doc, sees the project as an opportunity to "take ownership of my story," her niece Alex Finnie told ABC News' Deborah Roberts. In an interview that aired Thursday on "Good Morning America," Finnie also shared her reaction to her aunt's declining mental condition.

"When I saw her, she didn't have to say one thing. I knew that every cylinder is not firing the way it should," Finnie said, before adding that Williams still seeks a TV comeback.

Times staff writers Christi Carras and Corinne Purtill contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.