Wendy Williams teased that the scar above Joaquin Phoenix’s lips is ‘very attractive,’ and viewers didn’t appreciate the jab. The talk show host even pulled at her lip, mimicking those born with cleft lips and cleft palates.
The “Hot Topic” segment on the Jan. 7 episode of The Wendy Williams Show took a bad turn when Wendy Williams, 55, began to poke fun at Joaquin Phoenix’s looks. “I find him oddly attractive…And he knows how to transform,” Wendy gushed, but the conversation soon turned to the scar above the Joker star’s lips. “When he shaves off his mustache he’s got a hairline fracture, he’s got one of those — what do you call it? Cleft lip, cleft palate,” Wendy said, and to viewers’ horror, the talk show host even tugged at her upper lip to mimic a condition that many children have been bullied for. She added, “Now, I find it to be very attractive.”
Joaquin’s scar is not actually a result of surgery for a cleft, but is rather a “nonsurgical scar,” which he clarified in a 2019 profile for Vanity Fair. Regardless, many found Wendy’s comments and mimicking inappropriate. A cleft lip (a slit or opening above the lip) and a cleft palate (a slit in the roof of a mouth), often give children “problems with feeding and speaking clearly and can have ear infections,” and the possibility of “hearing problems and problems with their teeth,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s a sensitive condition that has impacted people’s lives, which Twitter users reminded Wendy.
“I’ve had more than a dozen surgeries because of my cleft lip and cleft palate. Your actions actually made me feel bad about myself, and that really sucks. You should consider apologizing to Joaquin Phoenix, at the least,” one person born with the condition tweeted, while another wrote, “This is disgusting my sister was born with a cleft lip and require surgeries since a baby and I was born with what would have been big lateral cleft palate but was fortunate it healed in utero. Bullying is not ok!! Thank you for standing up Adam!!!!” One fan was surprised to hear these words coming from Wendy, who has been the target of unkind comments herself. “Ami – people are born with a cleft palate, not by choice. I would have expected more from someone like @WendyWilliams that has personally face derogatory, inappropriate comments and body language to be more empathetic or at least respectful,” the Twitter user wrote.
Wendy’s segment even caught the attention of Canadian football player Adam Bighill, who was born with a cleft lip and palate as did his four-month-old son, Beau. “🤬🤬The comments made and actions made by @WendyWilliams regarding people with a cleft lip/ palate are just terrible! I will be making a post daily about this issue until she publicly apologizes and makes a charitable donation meaning,” the Winnipeg Blue Bombers player tweeted on Jan. 10, and he has continued to call out the talk show host. Wendy has yet to respond to the backlash.