Kelly Ripa has spent over 20 years hosting one of the most popular morning shows on TV. But while it may seem to viewers to be a glamorous experience, her history with the talk show isn’t entirely made up of chatting with celebrities in perfect hair and makeup. Ripa has revealed that joining Live as a co-host wasn’t what she expected and how she was treated unfairly, especially in her early years.
In a new interview with Variety, the 52-year-old star opens up about what she perceived as sexism at work on the show, including that she was forced to share the studio audience bathroom for years and to work in a janitor’s closet rather than have her own office. Read on to see what else Ripa had to say about the discrimination she faced and to learn how she’s stood up for herself at work.
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Ripa joined long-time co-host Regis Philbin on Live in 2001, as the replacement for his former co-star Kathie Lee Gifford. She noted in her Variety interview that she was not afforded some of the conveniences that Philbin was. While he had his own bathroom in the studio, Ripa had to share the public restroom used by the audience.
“Picture this,” Ripa told the outlet. “We have a studio audience—like 250 people!—and I have to queue up. Particularly when I was pregnant, it was extraordinarily exhausting to have to wait in line. I have to host the show, and I’m still waiting in line to use the bathroom. It just seemed, you know, a very needlessly difficult situation.”
Asked what the audience members thought, she responded, “Yeah. They couldn’t believe it either.”
Ripa also hoped to have an office to work from but said that she was denied space, despite there being open offices available. She was told they were reserved for any executives who might visit from the west coast. After a few seasons, Ripa said she was able to use a janitor’s closet as her office.
“It was after my fourth year that they finally cleaned out the closet and put a desk in there for me,” she said. “And so I was working in the janitor’s closet with a desk so that I could have a place to put things.”
Ripa thought she would finally be given a real office after Philbin left the show 2011, but she was mistaken.
“They said, ‘Oh, no, we’re saving that.’ And I said, ‘Saving it for what?’ And they go, ‘Well, for when the new guy comes,'” Ripa said. “And I looked at them, and I said, ‘I am the new guy.’ I just moved my things. I forced my way into the office because I couldn’t understand how I would still be in the janitor’s closet and somebody new would come in and get the office.”
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In addition to being denied a private bathroom and office, Ripa’s “difficult” experience on the show involved not being paid fairly initially, a lack of paid vacation time, no budget for wardrobe, and sharing a hair and makeup team with Philbin instead of having her own. She was also blindsided when she was one of the last to learn that co-host Michael Strahan was leaving the show in 2016, despite his move to Good Morning America being one within the network that producers were aware of.
“The biggest misconception is that it all came easily,” Ripa told People in September 2022. “People think I just showed up one day and was handed a job and I lived happily ever after and now everything’s perfect. But it never is that way.”
“It took years to earn my place there and earn things that are routinely given to the men I worked with,” she said in the same interview. “Including an office and a place to put my computer.”
In her Variety interview, Ripa explained that the people who were working on the show when she first started are gone now. She also shared that she’s happy with Disney executive Debra O’Connell, who began overseeing Live in 2018.
“From my perspective, they’re putting more and more women in positions of power, and women just are, from my experience, more willing to hear and solve problems in real time,” Ripa said. “It really makes a difference when you have people that are behind you who come aboard. It’s powerful.”
Ripa currently hosts the show with Ryan Seacrest, who has been on Live since 2017. Earlier this year, it was announced that he will be leaving and replaced by Ripa’s husband, Mark Consuelos. While she’s looking forward to it, Ripa told Variety that casting Consuelos as her permanent co-host wasn’t an idea that was initiated by either of them. “We’re the last people on earth to suggest ourselves to work together for anything,” she explained.