Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Jake Frost
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Stanton Daily. Posted by Jake Frost
September 21, 1968
1993 - 2004
Currently Known For:
Actress, Producer, Television Presenter and Former Talk Show Host
Hairspray and The Ricki Lake Show
“For me, being memorable is more important than winning.” Well-known among audiences who grew up in the late 1980s and 1990s, Ricki Lake became one of the youngest talk show hosts in history at 24 years old when she stepped on the stage to host Ricki Lake. By then, she had already turned heads in the late 1980s when she landed the leading role in the 1988 dance comedy film, Hairspray, which led to other films roles in Cry-Baby, Serial Mom and Cecil B. Demented. Along the way, she’s often made headlines for her drastic weight loss and has since settled into her life as a 49-year-old mother of two who is now focused on sharing her insights into living more holistically with her book Your Best Birth and the documentary, The Business of Being Born. So, how did she get her start in the industry three decades ago and what does she have planned next? Let’s find out!
Ricki Pamela Lake came into this world on September 21, 1968 in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York where her father was a pharmacist and her mother was a housewife. For the first 10 years of her life, Ricki’s paternal grandmother helped raise the youngster, which made her death in 1978 incredibly difficult. Amid the tragic loss of her grandmother, Lake attended Hastings Elementary School, Farragut Middle School and Hastings High School where, by the 10th grade, she knew she wanted to be an actress and enrolled at the Professional Children’s School in New York where she studied acting in 11th and 12th grade.
After graduation, Lake spent a year at Ithaca College and continued to audition when her agent called her about a new film directed by John Waters. Determined to land the part and catch her big break, Lake did exactly that and won the role of Tracy Turnblad in the comedy classic, Hairspray, which was released in 1988 and enjoyed widespread success as Lake went on to appear in three more of Waters’ films. “John wanted it to be completely authentic,” Lake said of her role as Turnblad, “and he made me peroxide half of my hair. I had to do it repeatedly throughout the eight-week shoot. It ended up like cotton candy… There’s a scene where I’m on the roller coaster and John wanted my hair not to move. They safety-pinned my curls to my collar. In another scene, I had roaches thrown on me—actual roaches! I had real rats going across my feet. We were in an alley in Baltimore. We didn’t have trailers. I would have to change clothes in back alleys but it was worth it to become a star.”
Admitting that Turnblad was a huge part of who she was in her teens, Lake went on to star alongside Johnny Depp in Waters’ 1990 film, Cry-Baby. She snagged roles in Where the Day Takes You, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Inside Monkey Zetterland but, while her career was taking off, her own personal issues were weighing her down as she constantly struggled to maintain her weight. Knowing she couldn’t continue the way she’d been living, she forced herself to make huge lifestyle changes by exercising and eating healthier foods as she dropped over 125 pounds. She later admitted that suffering years of childhood sexual abuse was the root cause of her addiction to food. “I look back and I wonder, maybe that’s why I gained weight when I was a teenager and got so big,” she said. “Maybe that was a way of protecting myself from being a draw for men, I don’t know. One of the things that really helped was admitting that it happened… I think that helped me come to terms with it. It just becomes part of you.”
In 1993, Lake auditioned for the chance to host her own talk show and was selected out of 100 other actors and aspiring talk show hosts as she debuted on Ricki Lake at 23 years old and became the youngest daytime talk show host in television. The show was a moderate success as Lake discussed real-world topics like parenting, relationships, LGBT rights, racism and a variety of social issues. Then, just as her career blossomed, her personal life took a new turn as she met an illustrator named Rob Sussman at a Halloween party in 1993. Marrying five months later in March 1994 just as Lake earned her first Daytime Emmy Award nomination for Ricki Lake, the couple spent the next decade together raising their two sons before Lake filed for divorce in 2003. This prompted Lake to end her syndicated talk show in 2004 to give her more time to spend with her kids.
Making sporadic appearances in television series and even proving her talents as an executive producer with made-for-television films like Matters of Life and Dating and Loving Leah, Lake made a cameo appearance in the 2007 musical remake of Hairspray. The same year, she pursued her newest passions for parenthood with the release of her documentary, The Business of Being Born. “I never wanted to create a film that would tell women how they should give birth,” Lake said of the film. “I really set out to make the movie that I wish I had seen before my first pregnancy. Like so many women, my disappointing first birth experience motivated me to really do research when I became pregnant with my second child. I realized that I needed to be much more informed and empowered to have a positive experience, regardless of the setting or method of delivery.” She shared more of her story in her book, Your Best Birth.
In 2012, Lake returned to the syndicated talk show circuit with The Ricki Lake Show, which didn’t do as well as her first show as it focused more on the feelings of a younger audience. Although the show was canceled after one season, Lake took home her first Daytime Emmy Award in 2013 for Outstanding Talk Show Host. Today, the 49-year-old is newly divorced and says she’s now focused on her next projects, which include a second documentary as well as her most recent appearance as a celebrity judge on Britain’s Let It Shine.