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Kelly Ripa talks bluntly about sexism during her Live! career

In a new interview, Kelly Ripa reveals the sexism and inequality behind the scenes of her 22 years of Live!

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Kelly Ripa talks sexism during her 22 years of Live!
Kelly Ripa
Photo: Mike Coppola (Getty Images)

Kelly Ripa is one of the longest-tenured female stars currently on television, so of course she has Seen Some Shit. Ripa has spoken up about mistreatment on Live! before; she famously delivered a monologue live after being blindsided by Michael Strahan’s exit announcement in 2016. But in a new interview with Variety, she’s opening up further about the outright sexism she’s endured during her 22 years on the ABC series.

For one thing, there were years of pay inequality. She was well used to that from her days on All My Children (wherein her husband Mark Consuelos was paid “far more” than she was, despite him starting years after her). She didn’t expect her salary to match a longtime veteran like Regis Philbin’s, either. Yet she says the inequality persisted until her contract was up and ABC executives realized she would quit. “I don’t think they wanted to pay me. I think they had to pay me,” she says. “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.”


Other indignities she suffered over the years range from mundane to egregious. When she started, she didn’t get paid vacation or maternity leave, a wardrobe budget, or the use of her own hair and makeup team. She fought for years to have her own office, only to be granted a desk in an actual janitor’s closet in her fourth year. When she took over Philbin’s office (against the wishes of the network, which was “saving” it for “the new guy”), they quickly knocked down some walls to make Strahan an office “twice as big.” She also didn’t have her own bathroom for many years, and was stuck waiting in line for the public toilet with the studio audience. “Particularly when I was pregnant, it was extraordinarily exhausting to have to wait in line,” she recalls. “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.”

Ripa’s situation improved in 2018 when Debra O’Connell, president of networks for Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, began overseeing the show. “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,” she says. “It really makes a difference when you have people that are behind you who come aboard. It’s powerful.”


Entering a new era of the show with husband and new co-host Consuelos, Ripa is already thinking about training up her replacement and taking some time off. But she does hope to leave behind a culture of equality in the workplace. “It’s the only reason I speak out,” she says. “It’s not just that I have a daughter. I have co-workers. I have people in my life that I care about. I don’t want them to have to scrape for the scraps.”