The Cultural Significance of Wendy Williams’s Performance of Native New Yorker on The Masked Singer

Fran Tusso, Staff Writer

Lips. Merriam-Webster defines the word as: “two fleshy structures that surround the mouth in humans.” Now, it has a new meaning. If you’re a Masked Singer fanatic, your ears may even perk up when you hear the word. Lips. 

If you aren’t familiar with The Masked Singer, it is a singing competition show where well-known celebrities perform songs, except there’s a twist: all of these icons wear eccentric costumes, hiding their identities to viewers until their eventual elimination (or victory), where they are unmasked. The audience spends each season giddy guessing who these singers may be. 

Popular American talk show host, Wendy Williams, appeared on Season 4 of the Masked Singer, and her disguise? Lips. The fifty-six year old was adorned with glitzy black tights, and of course, a shiny pair of beet red lips, perhaps a nod at Ms Williams’s notorious gossiping nature. She was immediately unmasked after her first and only performance, that of Odyssey’s “Native New Yorker” just weeks ago. She was taken from us too soon, by questionable audience members and clearly tasteless judges: Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy, Nicole Scherzinger, and Robin Thicke. We deserved more from Wendy.

2020 has arguably been the worst year in recent history: the COVID-19 pandemic, political tension, murder hornets, lions and tigers and bears, oh my! But thanks to Fox (and also Nick Cannon), we had one light: Wendy Joan Williams’s performance of the song, “Native New Yorker” by singing group Odyssey on award-winning show, The Masked Singer. It was the water that we so desperately needed in this endless desert of a year. It’s refreshing to see such bravery in this economy. 

Wendy Williams as Lips

Is Wendy Williams a good singer? Not exactly. Is Wendy Williams a singer? 100%, and at the end of the day, that is what’s most important. If you’re like most people, you recognized her infamous raspy voice right away. That is, unless you’re my mom, who heard Wendy sing and immediately thought that Lips was RuPaul? I commend her efforts nonetheless. 

Quite frankly, Williams’s rendition of “Native New Yorker” may even top Odyssey’s original 1977 version. I admire the spin that Wendy put on the tune, adding lines and sound effects of her own, truly making it new and unique, the modern update that we all needed. When Wendy said, “a lil vampin’; oooo ooo oooo,” I honestly got goosebumps. What I think may be the most impactful aspect of the performance, is the sheer casualness that Williams exhibits. Unlike most of her masked peers, there is no dancing. Confident in the power of her vocals alone, Wendy delivers her routine exclusively perched upon a white sofa on stage, legs crossed, dreams bright. There were background dancers, sure, but Wendy’s voice was enough to stun audiences nationwide and worldwide. Can she ever begin to comprehend the cultural reset that she has single handedly inspired? Does she understand that she has saved the American people? 

Speaking on the matter is Bailey Robson, one of Williams’s fellow New Jersians. She said, “I never saw the good in the world until I heard Wendy Williams sing Native New Yorker, it saved my life and I will live every day listening to her ‘native NEWYAWKAH’ in honor of her saving me.” She went on to say that Wendy truly lived up to the legacy of her great state.

Below is a graph on the YouTube views that band, Odyssey, has received over time. (If you’ll recall, Odyssey is the original artist behind the creation of “Native New Yorker.”) You’ll notice that there’s a very recent and pretty large spike in views. Who else is there to thank besides Wendy? She revived Odyssey’s relevancy and our hope in humanity. 

So, what do our Ursuline Academy peers think? “Truly a pivotal moment in these uncertain times. It gives me hope for a brighter future when she says ‘No one opens the door for a native New Yorker… here I go,’” remarked senior Alli Popham. Sophia Burgy had this to say on the matter: “The first time I saw Wendy’s performance, I cried. Whether from joy or despair, I have no clue.” Sophomore Katie Brooks even said, “Amazing! Truly life saving; when I hear that song, it sounds like angels.” When brought to the attention of KellyAnne Klein, she replied, “What did I just watch?,” clearly in awe of William’s grace and talent. 

Wendy, if you’re reading this right now, I beg you for a full-version of  “Native New Yorker” and I thank you for your contribution to society. I would also like to apologize for the injustice you’ve experienced on The Masked Singer via your unfair and premature elimination. You had so much more to offer the world musically, and we cut off your voice.