The Untold Truth Of Kelly Ripa

Kelly Ripa is one of the most recognizable faces on morning television. She's earned millions co-hosting "Live" since 2001 and has held down the fort opposite a rotating cast of male counterparts. Following her rough start with Regis Philbin, she had a contentious run with Michael Strahan before enjoying smoother waters with Ryan Seacrest, with whom she had a great relationship. In 2023, she welcomed yet another co-host to the "Live" set: her husband, Mark Consuelos. While they initially hated the idea of working together, they eventually realized it would likely be a recipe for success. "If you have a solid foundation at home, then your foundation is solid no matter what your job is," Ripa told E! in 2024. After all, they had previously worked together on another huge TV franchise.

Ripa is, of course, also a bonafide soap opera star, having appeared in 462 episodes of "All My Children." She and Consuelos met on the show in 1995 when they played love interests and, although their marriage is sometimes strange, it's lasted longer than most in Hollywood — as has Ripa's career, despite her alleged shady side. And yet, even with all of the media attention she's received over the past three decades, there's still plenty that folks don't know about her. This is the untold truth of Kelly Ripa.

Inside Kelly Ripa's wholesome upbringing

Kelly Ripa and her older sister, Linda Ripa, had quite the wholesome upbringing in their native New Jersey. "There was always a lot of love and laughter in the house, and tons of fun," Kelly told SJ Mag in 2017. The girls' parents, Joseph and Esther Ripa, met at Cooper University Hospital and tied the knot in 1962. Joe worked as a bus driver (and later ran the Amalgamated Transit Union in Camden) while Essie was a homemaker. Instead of trying to steer their kids down any particular path, they allowed them to discover their own passions. "They taught my sister and me to dream big," Kelly once gushed in a promo video for Cooper University Hospital. Similarly, she told SJ Mag, "My mom and dad are the reason I am who I am today."

However, they didn't initially love her decision to pursue acting over her studies. "My father is still waiting for me to go to college," she jokingly told the Los Angeles Times in 2001. Despite their college focus, Joe and Essie have been supportive through and through. As Kelly told Redbook, "My parents are just so proud of their two children, and it has nothing to do with what we do for a living." Rather, they're happy they could instill important lifelong values in their kids. "For them, it's all about trying your hardest to be a decent person every day and being grateful for what you have," she mused. "That's how I was raised."

Kelly Ripa was traumatized by her mom's homemade school lunches

Esther Ripa wasn't big on enforcing household chores. Instead, her focus was on getting her daughters, Kelly and Linda, involved in the arts. "My mom didn't teach me normal stuff, like how to do laundry or cook," she told Good Housekeeping, joking she didn't learn how to use a can opener until she moved out. "She thought it would be better for us to have ballet lessons than do chores around the house," Kelly explained. And so, while they focused on performing, their mom took care of the more mundane tasks, like preparing school lunches — but her efforts weren't always appreciated.

During a 2023 episode of "LIVE with Kelly and Mark," Kelly recalled Essie's lunchbox go-to — cream cheese and grape jelly on white toast — and quipped, "You truly haven't lived through the horror of a school lunch until you've had one of my mom's." As she explained, it wasn't the combination that bothered her. Rather, it was the fact that her mom liked to prepare the sandwich the night before, which ensured "it would get good and mushy." She also had a habit of placing it in the fridge right next to a half-sliced onion. "I would have an aromatic, cream cheese and jelly, onion-scented slime sandwich — with maybe an apple," Kelly shuddered.

Kelly Ripa once dreamt of a completely different career

Kelly Ripa caught the acting bug in the sixth grade when she was cast in "H.M.S. Pinafore." As she told SJ Mag, she couldn't sing and it wasn't the best fit, but she gave it her all. Not long after, as a teen, she became a regular on a Philadelphia variety show called "Dancin' On Air" which solidified her love for acting. After high school graduation, Ripa moved to NYC at 19, but enrolled in a few college courses to make her parents happy. "I took things like psychology, things I couldn't get motivated to do," she told the Los Angeles Times. Luckily, she didn't have to endure it for long. In 1990, at just 20 years old, Ripa was cast as Hayley Vaughan on "All My Children."

The role made her a household name and, a decade later, it helped her land Kathie Lee Gifford's job on "Live." She officially joined the show in 2001 and, two decades later, was still going strong — which made her 2020 revelation all the more surprising. While speaking to a midwife named Jennifer Shoback on "Live with Kelly and Ryan," she told her guest, "You are living my other profession." Turns out, Ripa once wanted to become a midwife or doula. "I wish I had that level of expertise because I just find the whole childbirth experience to be so incredible and miraculous and exhilarating," she enthused.

She had to overcome blatant sexism on Live

She's built a successful, decades-long career co-hosting "Live," yet Kelly Ripa doesn't have fond memories of her early days on the show. As she told People, "It took years to earn my place there and earn things that are routinely given to the men I worked with." That included the most basic benefits, like an office. Speaking with Variety in 2023, Ripa revealed that she was repeatedly denied her own workspace, despite there being plenty of empty offices available. "It was after my fourth year that they finally cleaned out the [janitor's] closet and put a desk in there for me," she told the mag. Not to mention she didn't have paid vacation, a wardrobe budget, maternity leave, or even a private bathroom (which Regis Philbin had). Instead, she had to use the public restroom. "Picture this: We have a studio audience — like 250 people! — and I have to queue up," she recalled. "Particularly when I was pregnant, it was extraordinarily exhausting to have to wait in line."

Even as her star rose, execs didn't budge. When Philbin left and she became "Live"'s top name, they refused to let her use his old office. This time, she wasn't having it — she packed her things and moved in. "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," she fumed.

The first expensive thing Kelly Ripa bought will surprise you

Kelly Ripa's mom may have underscored the importance of the arts, but when her daughter decided to skip college and move to the Big Apple, she wasn't too pleased. "She worried that I'd either get my heart broken or live under a bridge," Ripa told Elle. And yet, when the budding young actor banked her first big paycheck, she used it to treat her mom to something special.

On a 2024 episode of her "Let's Talk Off Camera" podcast, Ripa revealed how she splurged on an unusual but sentimental gift for her mother. "My grandmother always had a piano," she explained, admitting that she and her sister failed to master the instrument, despite endless lessons. "When my mom redecorated after my grandmother died, certain things just, like, left the house," she continued. That included the piano they had grown up around. "It left and in its place stood nothing," she mused. And so, once she had the means, she decided to fill that spot by buying her mom a white lacquer standup piano.

Her sister almost died in a terrifying car accident

Kelly Ripa nearly lost her sister and her unborn nephew in a horrific car accident in 1999. Linda Ripa was stopped at a light when a drunk driver hit her vehicle head-on. The terrifying crash left her with dozens of broken bones and, scariest of all, it broke her pelvis in such a way that it put her unborn son, Sergio-Giuseppe, into a coma for four weeks. Linda, who was seven months pregnant at the time, eventually gave birth to a healthy baby, but her ordeal was far from over. She was bedridden for nearly a year and could barely spend time with her son. "My mother is a 24-hour-a-day nurse to my sister," Kelly said at the time, per the New York Post.

Three years on, Linda had undergone seven operations and needed more. ”I don't suspect I will be without pain the rest of my life,” she told The New York Times in 2002. Her pain remained not only because of the severity of her injuries, but because the orthopedic surgeon who initially set her broken ankle botched the operation. In 2004, a jury ordered him to pay Linda $15 million for leaving her with a club foot and permanent nerve damage. Adding to her pain was the drunk driver's trial. As she told the outlet, when she appeared in court, "They called me the names you might imagine, as if it was my fault." Ultimately, he was sentenced to just six to 24 months in prison.

Kelly Ripa finds her on-camera job 'painful'

She may seem like a natural, but Kelly Ripa does not like being on camera. Speaking with Bethenny Frankel on the reality star's "Just B" podcast in 2021, Ripa revealed that she's thought about quitting television for a good 20 years. "Being in front of the camera is not something I've ever enjoyed," she mused. "I'm not very comfortable." While most folks who work in media are happy to have all eyes on them, she doesn't appreciate the attention. "It's never been sort of something that fed me in any sort of egotistical way," Ripa said. Furthermore, Ripa admitted that she can't stand listening to herself. "I find my own voice grating," she confessed.

Similarly, the "Live" co-host told Parade in 2020 that she's slowly started looking for work that would place her behind the scenes. "I've been writing a lot, so my goal ultimately would be to eventually get off-camera," she shared. "I really do enjoy the writing process so much."

Inside Kelly Ripa's mental health struggles

Another reason why Kelly Ripa has never felt comfortable on camera is that she struggles with severe social anxiety. As she wrote in her 2002 memoir, "Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories" (via People), she's always felt awkward and ill at ease with the spotlight on her. "People think that because I'm an extrovert on television I am one in real life. Surprise. That's why they call it acting," she revealed. However, it wasn't until she turned 40 that she sought professional help. That's when, as she shared during a 2023 episode of her "Let's Talk Off Camera" podcast, a friend suggested she see a therapist. "[My friend] said, 'How are you?' and I started sobbing and I wasn't entirely sure why," Ripa recalled. "She said, 'I'm going to write down the name of my therapist,'" she laughed.

Ripa also spoke about her mental health journey with Washington Post Live in 2022, sharing, "I really sought therapy as a way to sort of deal with the stress and learn how to manage my own anxiety." She's since learned to do so through breathing and meditation techniques, and by learning that there's no shame in failure. As Ripa explained, she would often ask herself, "If you bomb, then what?" It was through therapy that she was finally able to realize, "The answers are always, well, nothing happens, life goes on."

Her marriage to Mark Consuelos isn't perfect

They're one of Hollywood's longest-lasting couples, but Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos (who eloped to Las Vegas in 1996 after their "All My Children" meet-cute in 1995) have problems just like everyone else. In fact, Ripa noticed a big red flag at the very start of their marriage. As she told listeners of her "Let's Talk Off Camera" podcast in 2023, it was during their first week as a married couple that she realized Consuelos was, as she put it, "insanely jealous." The newlyweds were having dinner at an Italian restaurant in Boston when her hubby let his true colors show. "The waiter was like a very cute old man — he's definitely in his 70s, if not 80s — he leaned down and he said, 'And for the principessa?'" Ripa recalled. While she appreciated being called a princess and smiled, her partner was not impressed. "He walked away and you picked a horrible fight," she told Consuelos, who had joined her on the show. The actor admitted his shortcomings, but argued, "Look, at age 25, I was pretty insane ... I'm not jealous anymore."

Interestingly, Ripa once told Elle that she and Consuelos were like Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and that she loved that. "As much attention as Lucy got, Desi was always in charge," she explained. "I was drawn to Mark because he was positively an alpha male."

Is Kelly Ripa difficult to work with?

There have been a lot of unflattering rumors about what Kelly Ripa is like as a professional partner. Indeed, Ripa and Michael Strahan's tense relationship made plenty of headlines after she was blindsided by his sudden 2016 exit from "Live." Ripa disappeared from the show for a week, later telling Variety, "I didn't kick up a fuss; it wasn't a big thing." Rather, she said she simply needed time to cool off because she couldn't believe bosses hadn't bothered to tell her about Strahan's departure. 

Meanwhile, Strahan told The New York Times Magazine in 2020 that Ripa wasn't exactly a victim. He alleged she wasn't a team player and didn't want to hear his suggestions. "One thing I tried to do is have a meeting every few weeks with her," he recalled. After a few times, she reportedly refused to keep meeting. "It's selfish, and I don't operate well under that," he mused.

For her part, it wasn't the first time Ripa was kept in the dark about big decisions on the show. When Regis Philbin announced his retirement on-air, she had no idea it was coming. After his departure, Philbin alleged they never spoke again and told CNN, "[Ripa] got very offended when I left." Sharing her side of the story, she told People that simply wasn't true. "I was steadfast in my attempt at communication," she told the mag. "You can't make a person befriend you."