Kelly Ripa: Leader of the Pack

Kelly Ripa: Leader of the Pack

America’s golden co-host of the Live talk show for 22 years gets new energy and an extra charisma boost courtesy of Mark Consuelos, her husband of 27 years, who joins her on air this season. Kelly Ripa’s enduring success in life and work can be attributed to discipline, humor, intelligence, and prioritizing family above all else. In a wide-ranging talk with Cristina Cuomo, the seven-time Emmy-winning day brightener shares personal highlights from the show, along with parenting, partnership, health and wellness practices.

CRISTINA CUOMO: Since 2001, you’ve been providing humor every day. I just listened to your book Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories, and it’s so funny.

KELLY RIPA: Thank you.

CC: I was impressed with the discipline it took to write those stories and share all that information.

KR: It’s so hard writing a book. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I can say I’ve done a lot of hard things. I’ve given birth three times, and it was like a two-year labor process. I really foolishly thought—because I read a lot—that I could write. And I really thought for a moment that I had bitten off way more than I could chew. I just made a deal with myself that I was going to do it myself, and I was not going to rely on a ghostwriter or a co-writer. It was hard, but it was very gratifying when it was finally done, because nobody has your voice. I think the reason people responded to the book is because it’s so clearly me sitting down and having a conversation.

CC: You mention in the book that you’re risk-averse, and you’ve been doing one of the most challenging and scary things—translating life events and the American zeitgeist with humor and grace every day. How do you keep that humor going?

KR: I think the risk-averse quality I have is probably the reason I stayed with the same job for so long. Other offers come along, but I like to stick with what I know. I am very steadfast in everything I do, and so when you have me, you have me for life. Having said that, I don’t intend to work at this job for the rest of my life. I do talk about retirement with great interest, but right now I’m very happy, especially working with Mark.

CC: There is comfort in consistency. What are some of the other things you attribute to the Live franchise resonating with audiences for 22 years?

KR: I have to give a shoutout to our audience, because there were not the distractions—the streaming services and the smartphones and computers—when I started working there. Our audience has remained with us, and I think it’s because we are a break from the news. The news we cover is oftentimes absurd. We are sort of a respite from the anxiety of the day. We’re not revolutionary. We’re evolutionary, and so we evolve in small, tiny increments along the way, and I think that’s very important. It provides comfort to people.

CC: Tell me what we can expect from the new-season launch of Live With Kelly and Mark in September.

KR: We’re going to provide the same sort of humor and irreverence that people have come to know and love. Mark has taken the trivia game, where Ryan and I would just give away coffee mugs to the audience, and decided that he’s not going to do that any more. There are no participation trophies in life, he says. If they want to win a mug, they’re going to have to stump me. I don’t really follow the ratings, but from what I’ve been told that since Mark has taken over, people stay with the show all the way through because they want to see whether or not Mark gets stumped.

CC: What’s your favorite segment?

KR: I love talking to the trivia callers. Our show is best when it’s going off the rails, when our audience gets to see the slip-ups. It is not this highly polished, Hollywood thing. It is two people meeting, having coffee, having just read the paper. We never cover actual news, we cover absurd news. When you factor in a person calling from their cellphone in the parking lot of a grocery store, what have you, it is rife with the ability to derail very quickly, and I think that’s what I love the best. I also love our viewer feedback at the very end of the show, where we take our viewers’ questions and complaints, because what people fixate on is endlessly entertaining for me.

CC: I also love how you’ve incorporated health and wellness into the show, like the cold plunge that Mark and Gelman did. That was hilarious.

KR: Our show has been doing those health and wellness segments since way before it was a trend. Also, I will never get into a cold plunge. I don’t care if they tell me it’s an instant face-lift. I am so against cold water. You will never see me do a cold plunge segment on our show, ever.

CC: You’re in the Hamptons. Do you ever go in the ocean?

KR: I do go in the ocean, but you will never see me in the Northeast in the water. I come out on the weekends after work, so in my two days that I’m out here, I don’t want to be cold in the water. They keep telling us how the ocean water is the warmest it’s ever been, and I keep saying, ‘Even in the Northeast?,’ because what I consider warm water and what everybody else considers warm water are two different things. And this year, it seems like we have a lot of fish activity, more so than normal.

CC: Yeah, the sharks. That’s because of the warm water. A Stanford scientist was talking about how 68 degrees and below, five minutes a day, is all you need for the anti-inflammatory benefits of cold water.

KR: I can’t handle that. To me, 86 degrees is exactly the right temperature. I don’t know why. I’m a very strong person and I can do a lot of things. Look, I ski. I’m not afraid of cold, per se.

CC: Right.

KR: I don’t want to plunge myself into cold water. I like the water to be warm enough that I could potentially cook a chicken in it.

CC: Okay. Now you’re going to have to do that on your show, because that would be funny. What’s are some of the most fun TV memories?

KR: Looking back, I’m so blessed because I have my kids, who are now all adults. I have these incredible Christmas segments, cooking segments with them throughout the years, from the time they were newborns all the way on up throughout their lives. Whenever we do flashbacks or we look back in time, I’m reminded of so much. I forgot we did that insane cooking segment with a 1-year-old, a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old on the show. I forgot that we did that Science Bob segment with the world’s largest foam elephant. I forgot we did a trapeze segment. I don’t watch the show. I’m in the show, so I get this window into what our audience is seeing, and I find myself laughing.

CC: Twenty-seven years of marriage and three kids, now adults. You spend a lot of time with your husband, and you’re going to be spending more time with him as a co-host. What are some of the secrets to a good parenting partnership?

KR: We met almost 30 years ago working together, and we always had a great working relationship. I love Mark more than I can articulate. He’s a proper person. He’s just a gentleman. He knows who he is. He is confident and kind and unassuming and very humble. He is irreverent. He understands the absurdity, and he finds the humor in everything. Having said that, he’s also a very serious person. He is focused on his family in ways that seem like from another time, and I think that we are a good partnership. We build each other up, and we always have. We are fiercely loyal and extraordinarily protective, and yet we keep each other laughing, at home and at work.

When we were raising our children, we were extraordinarily aligned in our core value systems, about the job of being a parent. The price of doing business was really a justification for the time we would get to spend together. Mark had a more challenging job for decades, because he was always traveling for work, he was always on a set.  We both had the idea that the main goal was to raise kind, caring, well-adjusted, polite kids who would become productive members of society. All of the jobs that he took as an actor is the reason I found the talk show so appealing. It was not because I find that what I have to say is so vastly important. I’m actually really very averse to speaking in public. But I got over it, because of the idea that I could remain in one place, and have my kids go to the same school, live in the same neighborhood, just like we did when we were kids growing up. The job gave us consistency. Our kids got to grow up in the greatest city in the world, but they had consistency.

CC: Your daughter Lola, what a talent, with her beautiful new song, “Divine Timing.” There’s another power there, the healing power of music.

KR: It’s so exciting. We can’t get over her talent. It presented itself right away, early in her childhood. She was always the one who either the teacher at the school or camp or whatever had to drag her up on stage, because she wasn’t big on performing. You know when your kid is performing and you’re videotaping it? Every parent puts their phone down and tapes their own kid. But when Lola would sing at school or at camp, all of the parents would put their phones up, so I kept saying, She must be really good. Maybe it’s not just our imaginations. My frustration is I am dying to be a momager. And she keeps me at arm’s length. I am not involved. Evererything is “Mom, just stay out of it.” I keep telling her one day you’ll be a mother and you will understand the pride that I feel.

CC: How did it feel to be an empty nester?

KR: I know that there are women out there who dread it, and I was dreading it, and it is so great. You rediscover each other as a couple. We talk about vacations and where we want to retire. It’s a really exciting time.

CC: Describe your fitness regimen. What practices have you found to be the most fulfilling right now?

KR: It’s always been dance. The less I exercise, the better off I’ll be, because I don’t like to enter a room thinking that I’ve got a training session. The words “training session” sound like a punishment. But if I know I’m going to go dance, I’m just going to have fun. I get a workout without realizing it. I’m just going to have fun. I started exercising basically to manage my stress at work.

My body looks the same, no matter what. I’m straight up and down. I kind of have had this same sort of Peter Pan body my whole life, except for when I’m pregnant. That’s the only time I look remotely curvy, and by curvy I mean very curvy.

For me, it was more the mental practice. It was my form of meditation, or my form of therapy without a doctor there. That endorphin rush, the energy and clarity I get from it—that’s why I started exercising. And as time went on, my strength and endurance improved, and I found that I was able to lift my own suitcase over my head and put it into the overhead compartment, and carry extraordinarily heavy things. When we go on these long famiy hikes, I’m always the one with the giant backpack, because I carry a lot of weight, and that’s the benefit of exercise. it gives you life strength that you didn’t realize you needed or wanted.

CC: You’re very strong mentally and physically, which really shows through in everything you do. You’re a really good role model.

KR: A lot is asked of women, a lot. We are expected to do everything. Every day, all the time, and not really get acknowedged for it. I think it’s important to cheer each other on, to root for one another. It can be enormously powerful.

CC: Indeed. We’re not islands. We all have to consistently support one another, especially as women. What wellness rituals do you practice?

KR: I try to maintain a really healthy diet. I quit drinking about five years ago. I did Dry January, and just stayed with it. I felt so good that I just never went back to it. If I could say the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, it’s that. I have about 500 different skin creams. Sometimes I use many of them at the same time, and sometimes I use nothing. Sometimes I’m too tired to put it on at night. I use The Outset. I love Augustinus Bader. What you put in your body is very important. Like an anti-inflammation diet, as much as you can possibly have one. I always try to have lemon in my water. I do that olive oil and lemon shot at night. People get very annoyed when you talk about nutrition. I don’t understand the rage surrounding it. It’s almost as though we’re supposed to ignore how important what we put into our bodies is.

CC: I’ve watched you on TV for so many years, and you’ve never had a bad fashion moment. What do you love most about fashion?

KR: I am a New Yorker, so my uniform at home is primarily black, and then shades of darker black, lighter black, some gray and a little navy. In the summer, it becomes white, tan and beige. Then I have my TV wardrobe, which is bright, colorful, less of a uniform. It’s more stylish, more of the moment. Because I have the benefit of having worked with so many stylists at Live, we come up with things that are fun and easy. I don’t want to be overwhelmed by my clothes. My favorite style accessory has to be my FoundRae Karma necklace. I love it so much, I bought one for Bethenny Frankel for her birthday. Hang on a second. My son is here, because he’s working a half a mile away from our house for the summer. He’s been living at the house, and you know when you come to your house two days a week, every light bulb is out and you turn on the water and it’s coming out brown, and you’re like what happened, what’s going on? With a person here in the house, nothing is ever broken, everything is running smoothly. It’s like a dream.

CC: One of the few benefits of empty nesting is when they come home.

KR: It really is.

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