Kelly Ripa: From Soap Opera Darling To Talk Show Royalty

The queen of comedy, interviewing, and hosting talk shows, all in one, Kelly Ripa is the type of woman you automatically feel is your best friend. She connects with her audience and shares her own life stories — every morning. And she always looks fabulous doing it. 

To top it all off, her sense of humor is positively infectious. So how does this mother, host, and one-of-a-kind entertainer really do it all? Let's take a look at Ripa's ever-stunning transformation throughout the years from soap opera darling to talk show royalty.

She grew up in a happy New Jersey household

As a child growing up in New Jersey with parents Joseph Ripa, a bus driver and labor-union executive, and Esther Ripa, a stay-at-home mom, Kelly Ripa's life was defined by happiness and fun. 

"There was always a lot of love and laughter in the house, and tons of fun," she told SJ Magazine. "My mom and dad are the reason I am who I am today," adding that her personality on "Live with Kelly" is merely a reflection of her happy New Jersey upbringing. "What you see on the show is just the way I used to act at home," she said. "I mostly talk to nice people and I give back what I get. But treat me with disrespect, and you'll learn real fast that I'm from Jersey." It sounds like Ripa's happy Jersey upbringing had a bigger impact than any of us knew.

She had a very normal school experience

When Kelly Ripa wasn't dancing on national television, she actually had a pretty ordinary high school experience. In February 2023, the TV host opened up on "Live With Kelly and Ryan" about what she and her friends used to get up to in New Jersey. "I had this job in high school at a baby clothing store called Bravo Kids and after — like Friday nights, after work when we would close up, we would go to TGIFs for the mozzarella sticks," she said. "That's all the joy you need on a Friday after working at the baby store," chimed in her co-host, Ryan Seacrest.

Ripa went on to recall how she and her friends also spent the afternoons after high school at a local deli, where they'd order "french fries covered in mozzarella cheese" before they went home to religiously tune into "the last half of 'General Hospital' straight into 'Oprah.'" Sounds like a pretty dreamy routine if you ask us! Clearly, Ripa's childhood was exactly what you'd expect of a Gen X-er from Jersey.

Before working in TV, she danced

Even though Kelly Ripa's first role on TV came in 1990 with a leading role in "All My Children," that wasn't her first experience in front of the camera. In fact, as a young teen, Ripa was cast in the Philadelphia teen variety show "Dancin' on Air" in 1986 when she was just 16. On the show, Ripa wore a cheerleader's outfit and did a slow dance with a teen called Mike. She later revealed that she was also a cheerleader at her own high school. A year later she also appeared on "Dance Party USA," the national version of the show.

On both shows, Ripa spoke up for gender equality — even as a teen, she was clearly passionate about women's rights. "If a guy wants to pay, he can pay, but they should alternate," she said when asked about dating etiquette in 1986 (via SJ Magazine). And in 1987, she responded to a letter that claimed that congress didn't care about women's equality. "This guy made me made," she said. "Anything guys can do, girls can do better" (via YouTube).

Her mother worried about her interest in acting

A New Jersey native, Kelly Ripa lived there until her late teens before she headed to New York City. While discussing her childhood, Ripa has always been open about her strong relationship with her mother. 

"Growing up, I knew that I could count on your help for any obstacle that I faced," she shared in her book "I Love You, Mom!" (via Good Housekeeping). "I could depend on you to drop off my homework at school when I left it at home, drive me around to all of my activities, or even tell me my hair looked great when it was sprayed and teased to at least five feet in the air!"

Although Ripa's mom had reservations about her daughter's acting goals, she was there for her. "She worried that I'd either get my heart broken or live under a bridge," Ripa said (via Elle). Clearly, things worked out.

Her first acting role was a big one

After Kelly Ripa moved to New York for her career, she became a demo girl for Nerf footballs at a toy store. But it didn't take long for the stars to align. In 1990, Ripa earned the role of Hayley in the soap opera "All My Children." Just 20 years old at the time, Ripa later reflected on her success and how it came about. "There was never any clear-cut path," she said (via Redbook). "And anytime I tried to have a clear-cut path, that's usually when I would be disappointed. In the entertainment industry, you can only work so hard to achieve a goal. It's really 90 percent luck, 5 percent opportunity, and 5 percent skill."

Her role on the soap lasted for more than a decade, and Ripa knew when she was ready for her next steps. She continued on to say: "Eventually I saw that I had to change my own destiny. I had to light my own fire. When the opportunity came to host 'Live,' a lot of my friends said, 'You're not a talk-show host, you're an actor — if you go on talk shows that will be the end of your acting career.' But after I took the talk show, I was offered the sitcom and lots of other acting jobs. Sometimes opportunity begets opportunity and work begets work, and you just have to take a leap."

A fateful encounter on a soap opera led to her future husband

Aside from a break-out role, "All My Children" brought something else very important into Kelly Ripa's life — her husband. Ripa met Mark Consuelos on the show, and the actress knew from the very beginning that he had a role in her life. "When I met Mark, I was just sort of thunderstruck," she said (via Redbook). "I had a dream about him that night. The next day I went up to him and, although I didn't even know his name, I said, 'I had a dream about you last night. We were married and had a little girl and were on a plane to Rome.' And he was like, 'Oh, really?' and walked away and probably thought about filing a restraining order."

But clearly, 24-year-old Ripa and her dream didn't scare Consuelos away. The couple eloped in Las Vegas in 1996, after dating for just a year, and are still happily married.

She embarked on her next big gig as a talk show host

Kelly Ripa's biggest role came in 2001 when the 31-year-old auditioned to be one of the new hosts on "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee." Her audition did not disappoint. During the episode, a guest psychic predicted Ripa's future pregnancy. Little did the world know, Ripa was pregnant at the time with her second child. As she said on the show: "I haven't told my boss yet!" (via The Washington Post).

Not surprisingly, Ripa landed the gig. This was a show where she truly brought her personality to the show and to the audience. Executive producer for the show, Michael Gelman, reflected on this time with The Washington Post: "It was just such a real moment that it showed Kelly in a light for really who she was...She had that much honesty she couldn't not react."

She always prioritized her family

One reason why Kelly Ripa always seems like a friend you can relate to on her talk show is that she tells real stories about her family. With three kids, Ripa has been open about motherhood and the antics she finds herself in day in and day out. And once she left "All My Children" in 2002, she had even more time to be with her kids and her husband. 

As she told Good Housekeeping: "I feel great not having to go [to set] after I work in the morning. This is all new to me, having free time, having time to have lunch. For the first time in 13 years, I can have lunch with my husband at a restaurant. I had no idea that there was this whole world of people out there eating in restaurants in the middle of the day."

And quality time isn't all that's important for the family — Ripa wants her children's education to be a focus as well. She shared her thoughts on how she never went to college and wanted more for her kids. "Not going to college, it sort of gives you a chip on your shoulder. Would I change anything in my life? No. But I have hopes that my kids will go to college someday, certainly."

She was a lead on Hope & Faith

In 2003, Kelly Ripa was cast as Faith in ABC's sitcom "Hope & Faith." Ripa played an ex-soap star who moves in with her sister — which naturally, leads to all kinds of chaos. The show ran for three seasons and a total of 74 episodes. At the time, Ripa knew that getting the role was a life-changing moment. "I'm nervous in a way that I feel is positive," she said to ABC. "I was nervous like this for 'All My Children.' I was nervous like this when I was offered the job of Regis' sidekick ... I was nervous like that when I got married. It's a positive nervousness."

In 2020, Ripa reunited with two co-stars from the show, Faith Ford and Ted McGinley, on "Live with Kelly and Ryan" and looked back on her three years on the show with nothing but fondness. "We laughed every day," Ripa said (via YouTube). "It was one of those things, it's like here, but it's a way longer day, way more intimate, because it was just us, but we laughed like that every single day."

She considers herself 'dorky'

Although she may appear to be the very essence of "cool" on her show, it may be surprising to discover that Kelly Ripa has not felt that way about herself in the past.

"No matter how much I try to cool myself up, I'm really dorky. I think that's why people get me," she said (via Elle). But she's also the first to tell you how cool she wants to be. She continued on to say: "No matter how much I try to cool myself up, it's never going to happen for me. But, like, am I dying to be cool? Yes, I'm dying to be."

She pursues fitness as a lifestyle

It's easy to see when looking at Kelly Ripa that she's clearly fit. I think it's safe to say we all have arm-envy when we see her in her cute, sleeveless dresses, looking fabulous as usual. So how does Ripa look good, feel good, and keep a fitness regimen while at the same time having the busiest schedule possible? She keeps moving.

She spoke with Shape about what she does, sharing: "If you're housebound and you're not feeling so good about yourself, just try walking around your living room...Or do five jumping jacks. It'll get your heart beating, you might feel energized, and you'll realize, you could probably do five more."

Her other tricks? SoulCycle is one, while yoga is up there too. "If I only have fifteen minutes in the morning, I'll just do some yoga or some deep breathing. ... For me, it's more the mental aspect than fitness."

She's a big fan of SoulCycle

Kelly Ripa has long been a well-known fan of SoulCycle. "I love it," she said (via Vanity Fair). She described her best experience at the fitness class to Style of Sport, saying: "Stacey was my first ride. A friend took me to a charity spin. They had just opened the Barn [SoulCycle's Bridgehampton studio) ... I had taken spin classes before, never really liked them, never really thought anything about them. They seemed kind of disorganized and this was organized. I was trying to keep up but I really didn't know what I was doing. My legs were flying all over the place. She really paid attention to my first ride, and I thought, 'This is for me' because it's a group atmosphere but you get one-on-one attention."

The place and the people make it what it is for Ripa. "It's the only place I feel really comfortable and where I have sort of found my 'tribe' to coin a phrase."

She felt 'blindsided' by Michael Strahan's Live departure

In 2016, Kelly Ripa's "Live" co-host Michael Strahan made a sudden departure from the show with ABC announcing his plans to leave on April 19 and head over to "Good Morning America." Strahan then announced his departure on the show the following morning — but Ripa was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Ana Gasteyer took over for her. Ripa's rep explained at the time that Ripa had felt "blindsided" by the shocking announcement.

Strahan did give her a shout-out on the show, saying: "I didn't want to say it earlier, but I really want to thank, of course, Kelly Ripa, because Kelly welcomed me here and I've learned so much from her. She's just been an amazing influence on me, and this has truly changed my life to be here with her" (via Yahoo!).

In 2020, Ripa opened up about how she had felt at the time when Strahan hadn't warned her of his plans to leave. "I didn't kick up a fuss; it wasn't a big thing; I was just like, I'm not doing this. If I'm not worthy of a discussion, if I'm not worthy of you running this conversation by me — it was outrageous," she told Variety. We have to say — who could blame her?

She expects respect in the workplace

Following Michael Strahan's surprising departure from "Live" to Good Morning America, Kelly Ripa asserted the importance of respect in the workplace. Opening up to People about the situation, she said: "I think that all people are deserving of fair treatment in the workplace. People deserve respect ... People should be treated equally and with dignity ... I think that requires a certain amount of empathy on a level. When you're dealing with big business, it's easy to forget that you're dealing with people and that people have feelings. It's easy to just look at it like a business unit."

Ripa handled a difficult situation well, moving forward but also standing her ground on an issue that was important for her to address. "We're excited for Michael ... I think it is a perfect match, I really do," she said (via Time). "However, what nobody considered is there's a whole other group of people that it really impacts, because we have to now find another great person [to co-host]."

She's reflected on life as a talk show host

Kelly Ripa learned that she doesn't just play the talk show host when she sits in the chair and films the show, but the role follows her everywhere she goes. As she described on Late Night With Seth Meyers, the job has given her stories, as people she meets will share interesting information.

"Now that you are a talk show host, people will tell you everything about themselves always, anywhere you go. I mean, I will be in spin class setting up a spin bike, and somebody will be like, 'So my brother just got arrested for drunk driving,' and I'm like, 'Why are you telling me this?'" she told Meyers.

She talked about 'winding down' from her show

It's difficult to picture the "Live" talk show without Kelly Ripa, but as the years go on, the host is looking to the future. While Ripa doesn't show any signs of slowing down, she has spoken about what's to come.

In 2017, Ripa compared her stamina to that of her co-host Ryan Seacrest and hinted at taking it easy in the future. "But at some point, I'd like to wind down. I'm not Ryan, I don't have his battery. So when I look at him, I see the future of this show," she said (via The Hollywood Reporter). "I'm like the older sister he never wanted."

Ryan Seacrest became her 'work husband'

Ryan Seacrest joined Kelly Ripa as a co-host of "Live" in 2017 — but their friendship goes way back. In fact, their chemistry on the show is so great, Ripa herself has even referred to Seacrest as her "work husband" (via Hello!). Seacrest also referred to Ripa as his "work wife" on Instagram.

"I like to work with my friends. Ryan and I work really well together because we have had a 20-plus-year friendship," Ripa told The Wall Street Journal in 2022. "We trust one another and admire each other. We involve each other in our deep workplace discussions, which was such a new thing for me."

In 2020, the pair were also in talks to film a pilot for ABC based on their close working relationship. The name of the show? "Work Wife." Unfortunately, in 2021, ABC announced that the show wouldn't be continuing. Nevertheless, it's pretty clear that this pair got along incredibly well — and were basically an old married couple without the romance.

She co-founded a production company

In 2008, Kelly Ripa got her first experience producing with the ESPN documentary "The Streak." It also marked the beginning of the production company, Milojo, which she shares with her husband, Mark Consuelos. The name is inspired by the first letters of their children's names. Since then, the couple has produced projects like Lifetime's "Let's Get Physical," ABC's "Generation Gap," CMT's "Cheer!" and numerous other dramas, documentaries, and reality TV shows.

As Us Weekly reported in 2020, producing has become a big part of Ripa's career. "Kelly's excited about the many projects she has in the pipeline, especially the development of 'Mexican Gothic,'" a source said. "Production has always been a big passion of hers."

In February 2023, Ripa announced that her next Milojo project would be a new SiriusXM podcast called "Let's Talk Off Camera with Kelly Ripa." It seems that Ripa has managed to make yet another dream come true with her very own successful production company.

She's opened up about becoming an empty nester

In 2022, Kelly Ripa and her husband Mark Consuelos said goodbye to their third child, Joaquin Consuelos, who moved out of the family home to study at university at the age of 19. The pair opened up to People about what it felt like to be on their own again. "It's scary, thrilling, liberating, shocking... and quiet," she told the publication. "I didn't know how to make dinner proportionally. Now, it's 10 p.m. and we'll eat."

She went on to get candid about the anxiety that comes with being an "empty nester." "I was like, 'We're going to be that couple: Our third child goes to college and we get divorced because this is it," she said. Luckily, the pair have only gotten closer since their children moved out. When she and Consuelos went to the beach for the first time without their children, she realized that they were entering an exciting new period in their relationship. "I think for us, it was 'Oh, this next phase of our lives, this is kind of great,'" she said.

She'll be co-hosting Live with her husband Mark Consuelos

Shortly after Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos became empty nesters, another major change occurred in their relationship — the pair became co-hosts of "Live" after Ryan Seacrest announced his plans to leave the show in February 2023. Ripa was sad to see him go, saying: "The greatest part of this entire experience has been that you've gone from being a friend to a family member." 

Luckily, another family member is already lined up to take his place. Consuelos will join the show in the next season and even appeared on "Live" to discuss what he expects from the new role. "I get to share a coffee with you every morning before the show and now I'll have one with you on the show as well," he told his wife. We can't really think of a better new co-host for Ripa — and we can't wait to see this real-life couple on air every single morning.

She spends time focusing on her family

Always a mom first, Kelly Ripa has continued to climb the ladder in her career while also focusing on her family, making that her top priority. Now, Ripa has some advice for her younger self, and it's good advice for other new parents out there. 

"Appreciate every second, even when you're exhausted," she said (via Good Housekeeping). "I remember when Michael was 14 weeks old and I was thinking, I can't wait until he's 14 so I can sleep through the night. You don't sleep through the night when they're 14. You stay awake for other reasons. The worries become so much more significant and bigger — you just want them to feel good about themselves, you want them to do well in school, you don't want them to be influenced by any bad peer groups."

It's clear how invested Ripa is, and that's why it is so enjoyable to watch her on her talk show. Those first 15 minutes are dedicated to the hosts discussing their lives, telling stories and day-to-day experiences — and many of Ripa's include her family. We're looking forward to both Ripa and Mark Consuelos sharing family updates as they embark on their new roles as hosting partners on "Live."