Not many talk shows have had the cultural impact of The Ricki Lake Show, with the exception of The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show was praised for exposing the realities of social issues other shows weren’t discussing amongst young adults, such as LGBTQ+ inclusion, racism, and parenting. After over a decade on the show, Lake walked away. It wasn’t due to low ratings. Instead, Lake says a life-changing event made her rethink her personal life.
She was hired for ‘The Ricki Lake Show’ when she was just 24-years-old
Lake never dreamed of being a talk show host. In fact, she says the job stumbled in her lap. She’d debuted on Broadway when she was just 18-years-old as part of the cast of Hairspray. Lake began appearing on The David Letterman Show show, and she says a network executive thought she’d be a good fit for a new talk show they were creating for a younger audience.
Lake was living with roommates at the time and says she was flat broke. She impressed the casting team and negotiated a $5,000 payment to shoot the pilot for the show. The $5,000 was just enough to cover her rent for the year.
She won audiences over and received a bonus of $500,000 in the first year. The rest is history.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks was a wakeup call and she quit the show and changed a lot in her life
Lake’s talk show ran for 11 seasons. The show was credited for telling stories of the disenfranchised and breaking barriers on what was displayed on daytime television, specifically amongst the younger demographic. While the show was a success, Lake wasn’t thriving personally. She was in an unhappy marriage at the time.
“9/11 was a huge turning point for me where I was living downtown [in New York], I thought we were going to die, and I watched the second plane hit the building, and in that moment of being on the roof of my building with my four-year-old and I had a two-month-old at the time – I said I’m leaving if I get out of this alive – I’m leaving New York, and I’m leaving this job, and I’m leaving this man,” she said in a recent interview with The Breakfast Club. “And I moved to LA. It took a year and a half. I had to finish my contract…I didn’t end up quitting my show per say, but I didn’t renew my contract, and I wanted to start a new life.”
Lake explained that she searched for something that would give her purpose. “That’s where I started soul searching about what I wanted to do, how I could make a difference…” she added. She made a documentary, The Business of Being Born, a 2008 documentary that examines how the American health care system approaches childbirth.
Ricki Lake now has a new podcast reflecting on episodes from her talk show
Lake relaunched the show in 2012 and it won an Emmy. but she says the production team behind it didn’t share her vision, so she walked away again. Still, her talk show is one of her proudest accomplishments.
Now, Lake has teamed up with Lemonada Media to launch the Raised By Ricki podcast. The show is dual purposed: part re-watch podcast and part cultural re-examination of specific episodes. It will also dive into Lake’s life, exploring how she came to host her eponymous talk show at such a young age.
The launch is set for this year and will feature exclusive licensed audio. Lake is set to co-host it with a Gen Z comedian.