Kelly Ripa Recounts Having to Share a Bathroom With Her Studio Audience of 250 People

In her early years as co-host, ABC underpaid Ripa, denied her maternity leave and paid vacation, and gave her a janitor's closet while the men had real offices.

Kelly Ripa Recounts Having to Share a Bathroom With Her Studio Audience of 250 People
Photo:Gilbert Flores (Getty Images)

It seems like at least a dozen people were trying to thwart Kelly Ripa’s rise to the top of daytime television. The now iconic Live! host has been on air for 22 years, and upon reading her experiences of outright sexism, it’s a miracle she outlasted those ghouls.

Ripa has weathered three men on Live!—Regis Philbin, Michael Strahan, and Ryan Seacrest—but it seems like ABC thought of her as a lawn ornament for the show. When she was first named co-host, the network didn’t give her maternity leave, paid vacation, or a wardrobe budget, according to a new profile of Ripa published this week in Variety.

Another way the network tried to thwart her? They didn’t give the co-host of the show her own bathroom.

I’ll let her tell it:

“Picture this,” Ripa says. “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.”
What did tourists think of having to stand in line to pee with Kelly Ripa?
“Yeah,” she says, taking a beat. “They couldn’t believe it either.”

If the co-host of a major cable show not getting maternity leave or a private bathroom to use—especially while pregnant—doesn’t get you fired up, what is absolutely galling is the office fiasco: ABC wouldn’t give Ripa an office on set. until her fourth year on the show—when they gave her a janitor’s closet. “It was after my fourth year, that they finally cleaned out the closet and put a desk in there for me,” Ripa told Variety. “And so I was working in the janitor’s closet with a desk so that I could have a place to put things.”

The empty offices backstage were saved for visiting executives that never seemed to appear, so luckily they were able to clean out that closet!

When Philibin left the show in November 2011, Ripa assumed she would get a real office. Not so fast, blondie! “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.’ And I looked at them, and I said, ‘I am the new guy,’” Ripa told Variety. “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.”

Needless to say, Ripa is and was the heartbeat of that show. Without her on that sound stage, there isn’t a show! To treat her this poorly boggles the mind. But Ripa is being careful not to put anyone in particular on blast. “It’s not any one person’s fault. It was a collective fault of many people,” she told the magazine.

“The network had a duty and an obligation to keep all things equal,” she continued. “I don’t blame the fellas. They were just doing what they had been told, or what they were instructed to do, or what they thought they deserved. Having said that, I go out of my way to protect the people I’m working with at any and all costs, even if it means that I am not as popular.”

Ripa has certainly become one of the most popular talk show hosts of all time, now raking in $20 million a year. She explains that it just took her a minute to understand how to fight for fair pay after the decade she spent on soap operas before landing the gig. “I was used to that pay inequity because that was my life for 15 years — 11 years on All My Children, and then during the Regis years, certainly. I would expect a man who was at the helm of the show for many years before me to earn a substantial amount more than me,” she says. “However, there has been this weaponization of my salary, as though I somehow should not ask for the money that the men routinely earn. And I’ve earned it the hard way.”

I can’t believe I’m sticking up for a multi-millionaire here, but good for her.

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