Betty Suarez has always had one goal in life: to make it in the publishing business. Despite being smart, hard-working, and productive, her dream has always been shadowed by the fact that she isn't the best looking young woman. However, she is now determined to do whatever it takes to fulfill that ultimate dream.
Wilhelmina Slater (born Wanda) 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 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 transgendered) sister.
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). 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 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 she resorts to seducing Bradford. She also assists Bradford in his scheme to get Alexis out of the country by recommending her counterpart at MODE Brasil, Rodrigo, romance her.
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, 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 back into the United States legally. She also manipulated an amnesiac Alexis 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. 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, Wilhelmina had already started plans to destroy the magazine and the Meade family altogether by "relaunching" MODE as "Slater" Magazine. After this plan fall apart due to a lack of finances, she used 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.
She 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.
She also plotted to have her baby sister, Renee, committed to an asylum to keep her away from Daniel Meade (whom she was dating).
After revealing to the media her baby plans, she has recently been re-instated as Creative Director by Alexis after managing to save "MODE" and Claire'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.
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. 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 share of Meade 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 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. Claire artfully fixes the situation for herself and confesses everything to Cal first.
Wilhelmina is the daughter of a United States Senator, a hard man who is never satisfied with his daughter's achievements.
She has younger sister, Renee. Her strong-willed teenage daughter, Nico Slater, has attended a succession of boarding schools and rarely lived with her mother. The name and identity of Nico's father has never been addressed.
The Slaters' first names are based on real names from the world of modeling: The Wilhelmina character is named after the legendary supermodel, who worked with Gia Marie Carangi before her death, and modeling agency of the same name, while the Nico character is named for the famous Warhol superstar icon.
Wilhelmina Slater Photos
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