Wilhelmina Slater is the main antagonist of the TV series Ugly Betty.
She is portrayed by Vanessa Williams.
Ugly Betty TV Series
Wilhelmina is a conceited, self-absorbed diva and former supermodel who lives for two things: MODE and Botox. During the first two seasons, she held the position of Creative Director of MODE magazine, having been with the magazine since at least 1981, when she was "Wanda Slater" and worked at the personal assistant of Fey Sommers. When Fey became pregnant after a tryst at Studio 54, Wanda promised to keep her pregnancy a secret in exchange for being made over into supermodel Wilhelmina Slater. Her numerous conquests includes Mick Jagger and Andre Agassi, and it is implied the father of her daughter is the Prince of Dubai. Twenty-five years later, after Fey's sudden death, she was next in line to become the magazine's editor-in-chief. She is passed over, however, in favor of the less experienced Daniel Meade, son of Bradford Meade, MODE's publisher, whom Wilhelmina think is not qualified for the job.
For this reason, Wilhelmina launches a series of attempts to derail Daniel, but on account of Betty Suarez, Daniel's assistant, many of Wilhelmina's plans are thwarted. In her many years as Creative Director, she has acquired many minions in the fashion industry (including one from a rival magazine), whom she uses in order to reach her goal of becoming editor-in-chief. She has also kept a series of files on other well known figures, filled with information she could potentially blackmail them with if the need arose.
In the early episodes of the first season, Wilhelmina was also in league with a mysterious bandaged woman, who, as the series progressed, many clues linked to be Fey Sommers. It is finally revealed, however, the mystery woman is actually Alexis Meade, Daniel's older (m-f transgender) sister.
Wilhelmina's plan is revealed when Alexis tells her someone called her from Wilhelmina's office. After learning her assistant Marc was the caller, Wilhelmina is ready to fire him, but she finds herself backed into a corner after she lets slip her takeover plans. Consequently, Wilhelmina agrees to give Marc financial perks in order to keep him from spilling the beans.
Wilhelmina also kept a secret bulletin board in her office of people whom she wants to fire or keep when she takes over MODE. The board is divided into two sides. One side is labeled "In" and has a picture of Wilhelmina. The other side is labeled "Out" and has pictures of Daniel and Betty among those to be fired, as well as Amanda Tanen (Although Marc is lobbying to keep her on, Wilhelmina places her there because Amanda has slept with Daniel and believes she still might be attracted to him). Christina was originally placed in between as Wilhelmina was uncertain of her loyalty. She later bribed Christina with the possibility of a career so as to do her dirty work for her.
Wilhelmina's scheme to replace Daniel is again delayed, however, due to an injunction: although Bradford's will states the elder son would take over Meade publications, Alex has since become Alexis. Wilhelmina refused to work until she becomes editor-in-chief. Despite her threats, the career-minded woman cannot help but find out the goings-on at MODE, so she orders Marc to carry a pot of orchids, in which she has placed a tiny camera, around the office of MODE. After she witnesses Alexis and Daniel bury the hatchet, Wilhelmina realizes Alexis has turned on her: when Alexis tells her she is keeping Daniel on board as editor-in-chief, Wilhelmina ends their partnership and now regards Alexis as an enemy.
When Wilhelmina later finds out that MODE legally belongs to Claire Meade, Bradford's wife, she visits her at the hospital where Claire is detoxing for her hearing. Wilhelmina hopes to manipulate her into signing a Power of Attorney, and she even tempts the alcoholic Claire with vodka on the condition Claire make Wilhelmina editor-in-chief. When Claire does not relent (Claire told her MODE "...will always be run by a Meade"), Wilhelmina resorts to seducing Bradford. She believes by doing this, it will convince Bradford that she can be the next Mrs. Meade, which would allow her to take over MODE. She also assists Bradford in his scheme to get Alexis out of the country by recommending her counterpart at MODE Brasil, Rodrigo, romance her.
In the season finale, Bradford gives Wilhelmina a gaudy engagement ring he designed himself, setting things up for a November 2007 wedding. When Wilhelmina learned Claire escaped while en-route to prison, hoping to stop Bradford from marrying Wilhelmina in the second season, she hired a bodyguard named Dwayne, whose "protection" was caught off-guard by Betty and Christina, only to have Wilhelmina force Betty into keeping quiet and not tell Daniel by getting her father Ignacio Suarez back into the United States legally. She also manipulated an amnesiac Alexis (who was in the hospital after the car crash she and Daniel were in) into thinking they were still friends by telling her Claire was the one who walked out on Bradford. She also used a tactic at the annual Meade Black & White Ball resulting in Bradford finally telling Claire their marriage was over for good.
However at the wedding, things started unraveling when Daniel found out about Wilhelmina's tryst with her bodyguard (and would later fire Betty for lying to him about it). After he told Bradford about this, Bradford blamed him for trying to stop the nuptials but just as he was about to say "I do," Bradford collapsed of a heart attack. At the hospital Wilhelmina tried to trick him into a quickie wedding with Marc as an ordained minister upon learning she could claim a stake in the company if she was legally married. When Bradford asked her if the affair was true, she didn't make eye contact, and Bradford told her it was over before he died, once again destroying Wilhelmina's schemes of taking over Meade Publications...or so everybody thought.
By using these tactics, along with tricking Daniel into dropping an advertiser because of Alexis (which resulted in a major boycott against MODE), Wilhelmina had already started plans to destroy the magazine and the Meade family altogether by "relaunching" MODE as "Slater" Magazine. But after she was terminated from Meade Publications, Wilhelmina secretly unveiled a virus disk called "Medusa X" and wiped out the entire magazine's database. She then informed Daniel and Alexis she will launch "Slater" as MODE's new competitor and lured the MODE staff over to her side by offering benefits and incentives. Unfortunately, after seeing those plans fall apart due to a lack of finances (her father would not help fund the world that took his daughter away from him), she turns to another scheme, using the sperm of Bradford Meade so she can become pregnant and produce an heir that will give her a piece of the company, as it turns out moments after Bradford's death, she bribed a morgue doctor into acquiring the sperm, which can remain alive for 48 hours, before Bradford was embalmed.
However, she would later learn she has a "hostile womb" and therefore cannot bear any more children. Thanks to Marc's suggestion, they find the perfect surrogate they can control and who is desperately looking for money; Christina. At first Christina turned her down because she didn't want a "Satan Spawn" growing inside her, but after Marc and Wilhelmina burned an expensive dress once owned by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, which Christina was intent on selling to a collector, she gave in...and had Betty brought in for support, which upset Wilhelmina.
She also plotted to have her baby sister, Renee, committed to an asylum to keep her away from Daniel Meade (whom she was dating), so the Meades would not discover her plans with Christina.
After revealing to the media her baby plans, she has recently been re-instated as Creative Director by Alexis after managing to save "MODE" from possible embarrassment and save Claire Meade's magazine, "Hot Flash", all in the one day.
She later revealed her unborn child to the Meade family and subsequently made a dramatic return to MODE, thanks to Alexis. Also thanks to Alexis, Wilhelmina became Editor-in-Chief of MODE magazine, but that position would not last long, as she was demoted back to Creative Director after sales for the new MODE plunged, thanks in part to Alexis regaining her trust in Daniel and Betty discovering a series of letters Marc gave her on purpose after he felt betrayed by Wilhelmina's ill-fated plan to mold Betty into the next "Wilhelmina."
She uses Christina's being pushed down the stairs to get more media coverage of herself and the un-born baby to make her look more "maternal." She then begins displaying emotion after learning of Christina's husband Stuart's illness and it is definitely terminal. When Christina is in the hospital after being pushed down the stairs by Alexis, she wakes up with Wilhelmina at her side and when photographers are trying to got more photos of a hurt Christina, Wilhelmina gets up and pulls the shade down over the window and then turns and smiles.
Wilhelmina would also use this ploy to get Alexis convicted for attempted murder by forcing Alexis to sell her stake in Meade Publications, only to be turned down after Alexis discovered Wilhelmina had slept with the District Attorney. However, when Claire learned of what Wilhelmina was doing with the DA, Claire made a deal with Wilhelmina by giving her 50% of the company (on condition it goes to the unborn child) and promoted her to co-editor-in-chief of MODE.
Wilhelmina decides to hire a new chief financial officer for the company who is Connor Owens, a playboy who Daniel seems to dislike which Wilhelmina thinks will give her an advantage. Wilhelmina gets Connor hired only to discover he and Daniel were faking their animosity although it turns out Connor doesn't play favorites with Daniel and wants to do what's best for the magazine. Wilhelmina tries to blackmail Connor but it doesn't work but in the course of their talks, she realizes she's attracted to him. Those plans seem undone when Connor mentions he has a fiance, Molly. However, when Wilhelmina sees Molly and Daniel flirting at a company retreat, she conceives the idea to push the two together and leave Connor open to her. Her baby is born at a fashion show on the catwalk after her surrogate could not exit the building except through the runway. Wilhelmina uses the media coverage to her benefit. It is revealed Connor is stealing from the company. Connor asks Wilhelmina to run off with him to an unnamed country, with all the money they'd ever need, and the baby, to start a new life together. Wilhelmina chooses her career instead, and has arranged to turn in Connor, but he left earlier than he indicated, as he suspected she would do this. Wilhelmina tells Betty one can never have it all, as Wilhelmina could not have both career and love.
Late in the third season, doubts surface as to baby William's true parentage, especially since neither her nor William seem to bond to one another at all. A photographer comments on William's resemblance to her surrogate, Christina. Wilhelmina consults a doctor who tells her William might be Christina's. If Christina and her husband had sexual intercourse at the time of William's conception, a DNA test will be required to determine who William's parents are. Wilhelmina shows Christina fake results, but Christina refuses to believe them and kidnaps William. Betty persuades Wilhelmina to tell the truth, which she does not only publicly, but also secretly to Calvin Hartley, who demands Wilhelmina keep her role at MODE before he will invest in the company. The alternative would be the failure of Meade, so the Meades must accept this deal. William, meanwhile, goes to his real parents.
During the season 3 finale, she discovers Claire Meade had an illegitimate child with Cal Hartley and plans to use this information to force Claire to step out of her sudden position of power. However, Claire artfully fixes the situation for herself and confesses everything to Cal first, including how Wilhelmina used the information for attempted blackmail. As a result, Wilhelmina goes back to being under heavy suspicion with the company. At the end of the finale, she is seen hiring a manhunter to track down Connor, stating she feels the only way she can keep her position in the company is to find Connor...dead or alive, and take back the lost money in order to push Cal out. After the manhunter leaves, she is seen walking into a room, and upon seeing someone, drops her shot glass, obviously shocked at this mystery person's appearance. In the season 4 premiere however, we found out that it was her daughter Nico, who was covered in blood as she had just killed her boyfriend. In Plus None we find out that Nico didn't really kill her boyfriend, she is just trying to extort money from Wilhelmina, with her boyfriend posing as a private investigator blackmailing the Slaters. In desperation, Wilhelmina planned to flee the country with Nico, and resigned from her position at MODE effective after the upcoming "Fearless shoot" in the Bahamas. However, Marc later overheard Nico and her boyfriend scheming, and after intitally refusing to believe him, Wilhelmina set a trap for Nico by showing her an expensive family heirloom that they could use to pay off the blackmailer. Nico took the bait, and was caught red-handed and confessed to everything. Wilhelmina later learned from Claire Meade that Connor had been found dead in Panama, and having lost everything, Wilhelmina broke down in tears. After Marc demanded a vacation, Wilhelmina forced Betty into becoming her assistant on the Bahama's trip, but after learning that her rival had taken a job she desired, Wilhelmina momentarily gave up, and began eating cheeseburgers on a private beach, only to be approached by Connor, alive and well. The pair shared a romantic trip together, and planned to escape together, but moments before their boat arrived, the police arrived having received a tip off that Connor was at the hotel, and realising he had been caught, he insisted that Wilhelmina pretend that she had been the one to turn him in, in order to get her position back at MODE, which she did.
- She is portrayed by Vanessa Williams.
- In June 2010, Entertainment Weekly named her one of the 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years.
- In July 2012, She was on the #25 List of TV's Greatest Villains of All Time.
- Wilhelmina is similar to Cruella De Vil: Both are cruel, scheming and manipulating bosses and both are business women.