Kelly Ripa is opening up about struggles she experienced at Disney’s syndicated “Live with Regis and Kelly.”
The “Live” host, who will soon be paired with her husband, Mark Consuelos, after Ryan Seacrest departs on April 14, shared with Variety some of the challenges she faced in daytime television for its “Power of Women” issue.
The list included being kept in the dark about co-hosts’ exits, a lack of benefits — including maternity leave and vacation time — and no wardrobe budget.
“It was very tough,” said Ripa, 52, a former “All My Children” soap actress who has co-hosted “Live” since 2001. “Had I known how difficult it would have been, I don’t know that I would have gone for it. I just think my ignorance in that situation wound up being my blessing and my superpower. I did not have an easy time.”
USA TODAY has reached out to Disney for comment.
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Kelly Ripa worked from a janitor’s closet, had to use public bathroom
She detailed one experience that she called one of the “strangest” she’s had in her life.
“I was told that I couldn’t have an office,” she said. “It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially because there were empty offices that I could have easily occupied.”
Eventually, after three seasons of negotiation, a janitor’s closet was emptied for her use.
For a long time, she was also forced to use a public bathroom, shared with the show’s studio audience, while her co-host Regis Philbin had a private lavatory. She would have to wait in line to use the restroom.
“Particularly when I was pregnant, it was extraordinarily exhausting to have to wait in line,” Ripa said. “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.”
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Pay was another problem. She only received what she thought of as fair compensation when she had the ability to walk away.
“I don’t think they wanted to pay me,” Ripa said. “I think they had to pay me. I was trying to walk out the door and close it behind me. And I think they really figured out rapidly that they had screwed up in a major way, and it was not a good look. I think that was really the impetus behind paying me fairly. They had no choice.”
Ripa felt she played runner-up to male co-hosts
Ripa said she felt she was always playing runner-up to her male co-host — even after Michael Strahan was hired to replace Philbin in 2011. (He left in 2016 to join “Good Morning America,” and Seacrest joined.)
“Initially, I thought this is just what happens, and they don’t have to fill me in because I’ve only been here 10 years. I’m still the new girl,” Ripa said. “But then, when I was the more senior on-air person, it was like watching the same movie all over again: All of those offices that were not available to me were suddenly made available, with walls knocked down to make them twice as big. It was fascinating for me to watch — the need to make the new guy comfortable and respected, but I couldn’t use those offices. I had to use the broom closet.”
The transitions between hosts, she said, don’t have to be dramatic. “I know what it’s like to feel like you’re not wanted somewhere. I came from an acting background, and I am an expert in rejection,” Ripa said. “But this was like weirdly being rejected while also being the person that they wanted for the show.”
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‘Live’ is in the middle of another transition period
Her commentary comes on the precipice of yet another co-host transition — this time, Consuelos will replace Seacrest on April 17. Ripa told Variety that she’s proud of how this move is being handled.
“I’ve got to tell you: Even during the tough moments, my wife, she’s a worker,” Consuelos told Variety. “I’d like to think that she’s made a lot of sacrifices that have advanced the cause for women.”
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Contributing: Kelly Lawler