Kelly Ripa Addressed the Rampant Sexism on the Set of 'Live'
She got real about everything from pay equity to maternity leave — and even her wardrobe budget.
Believe it or not, Kelly Ripa has been in the co-host's chair at Live (aka Live with Regis and Kelly and Live with Kelly and Ryan) for 22 years. And thanks to that decades-long timeframe, it's clear that she's — in the words of the A.V. Club — "seen some shit." She laid it all out in a new interview with Variety, where she discussed all the inequities that she had to face as a female co-host sitting alongside Regis Philbin, Michael Strahan, and Ryan Seacrest (she outlasted all of them, naturally).
“I don’t think they wanted to pay me. I think they had to pay me,” she said of negotiating her paycheck, which went as far as saying that she'd leave the show. She explained that she knew she wouldn't get paid as much as a veteran like Philbin and had to fight for equity with her subsequent co-hosts. “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.”
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The interview also mentioned that at the start of her time on Live, she didn't get offered "paid vacation or maternity leave, a wardrobe budget, or the use of her own hair and makeup team." She added that she didn't even get her own office until her fourth year on the show and that it was actually "a desk in an actual janitor’s closet." And when she managed to get Philbin's office, the team at Live constructed one for Michael Strahan that was twice as large in no time at all.
“Particularly when I was pregnant, it was extraordinarily exhausting to have to wait in line,” she said of not even having her own bathroom. Instead, she had to use the studio bathroom, which was shared with the audience. “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 explained that things did get better in 2018, when Debra O’Connell, president of networks for Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, was put in charge of the show. When women are in charge, Ripa said, they're more willing and open to address issues and take the time to see things through.
“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.”
Now that Ripa is ushering in a new era of Live with her husband by her side, she wants everyone to know that her legacy won't just be her time in front of the camera, but also everything she did to make things better behind it.
“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.”
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