US Reporter

From Janitor’s Closet to Co-Host: Kelly Ripa’s Journey on “Live!”

Kelly Ripa has consistently appeared on Live! for more than two decades, but she didn’t always have an easy road to success. In reality, Ripa recently acknowledged that she encountered some substantial difficulties when she first assumed the role of co-host of the well-liked talk show.

Ripa became a Live! following a broad search, she replaced Kathie Lee Gifford in 2001. She was teamed with Regis Philbin, and the two soon grew close and popular with the audience. Behind the scenes, Ripa had to overcome some major challenges.

Ripa recently stated in a cover story for Variety that she was initially refused access to several fundamental advantages that were provided to her male coworkers. She did not receive paid time off for vacation or maternity leave, nor did she have a dedicated workspace. She was made to share a dressing room with Philbin and other employees instead.

“It was very tough,” Ripa told Variety. “I was living in fear that I was going to be fired at any moment. I wasn’t given the same benefits as my male co-hosts, and I didn’t have a lot of leverage to negotiate. I just had to keep my head down and do my job.”

Ripa persevered in the face of these difficulties. She put in a lot of effort to establish herself as a valuable employee of Live! She was respected by the show’s management team and the network executives over time.

“It took a few seasons, but eventually I was able to negotiate for my own office space,” Ripa said. “It was a small victory, but it meant a lot to me. It was a symbol of the progress I had made and the respect that I had earned.”

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Most Respected and Beloved Figure

Today, Ripa is one of the most respected and beloved figures in daytime television. She has co-hosted Live! with a number of different partners over the years, including Michael Strahan and Ryan Seacrest, but she has always remained a constant presence on the show.

Looking back on her early years on Live!, Ripa is proud of the progress she has made and the obstacles she has overcome. “It wasn’t easy, but I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said. “Every challenge I faced made me stronger and more determined. And now, I’m grateful for the opportunity to do what I love every day.”

For years, she was forced to share a dressing room with Regis Philbin and other staff members, and was even relegated to an empty janitor’s closet at one point. When Philbin left the show, Ripa assumed she would finally be given her own office, only to be told that it was being saved for the new co-host.

“I couldn’t understand how I would still be in the janitor’s closet and somebody new would come in and get the office,” Ripa said. “So, I just moved my things. I forced my way into the office because I couldn’t understand why I was being denied something that I had worked so hard for.”

Ripa also faced pay inequity, and was left in the dark about the departures of Philbin and later, Michael Strahan, who left Live! for Good Morning America in 2016. Following Strahan’s departure, Ripa famously walked off set and didn’t return for several days, citing a lack of respect in the workplace.

Ripa Shares Details

Reflecting on those early years, Ripa acknowledged that it was a difficult time for her. “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,” she said. “But then, when I was the more senior on-air person, it was like watching the same movie all over again.”

Ripa first appeared on Live! in 2001, replacing co-host Kathie Lee Gifford. However, despite her experience as an actress and a host, Ripa faced a number of inequities compared to her male co-hosts. 

For example, she was not given paid vacation time, maternity leave, or even her own office space. It took not less than three seasons for Ripa to negotiate a space for herself, and even then, she was given an empty janitor’s office.

“It was the strangest experience I’ve ever had in my life,” Ripa said. “I was told that I couldn’t have an office. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially because there were empty offices that I could have easily occupied.”

Ripa eventually took matters into her own hands and moved into an office when she was told that it was being saved for a new co-host. She also faced pay inequity and was left in the dark about the departure of her former co-hosts.

“It was very tough,” Ripa said of the early years. “Had I known how difficult it would have been, I don’t know that I would have gone for it.”

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Challenges and Perseverance 

It wasn’t until her contract was up and her bosses realized that she could quit that she received pay equity. “I don’t think they wanted to pay me. I think they had to pay me,” she said.

Despite these challenges, Ripa has persevered and continued to host the show for over two decades. She has also become a vocal advocate for fair treatment and respect in the workplace.

Now, as Live! prepares for another co-host change, with Ryan Seacrest departing and Ripa’s husband Mark Consuelos stepping in, Ripa admits to feeling a bit of anxiety. However, she is confident that the show will continue to thrive and that Consuelos will make a great co-host.

“Ryan and Mark were like, ‘What are you nervous about? It’s going to be fine,'” Ripa said. “And I said to them, ‘You have to forgive me. I have a little PTSD.'”

Despite her past struggles, Ripa remains a beloved figure in the world of television hosting, and her dedication to her craft and her commitment to fairness and respect in the workplace are an inspiration to many.

Photo: She Knows

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