“Support is what all women in every industry could always use more of — and will seldom ask for,” Kelly Ripa said, as she took the stage at Variety‘s Power of Women: New York event on Tuesday afternoon. “Offer support to someone who needs it. Encourage others to do the same. Sometimes just being asked is enough.”
Ripa’s advice was part of her stirring speech at Variety‘s annual luncheon where she was one of five Power of Women honorees, along with Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Rosie Perez, Natasha Lyonne and Judy Blume.
“Don’t ever be afraid to advocate for yourself. Don’t ever be afraid to advocate for others,” Ripa continued. “Knowing that a person or group of people have your back can be the most powerful thing in the world.”
Ripa — the longest-running host in syndicated daytime TV as the host of “Live!” for 23 seasons — was honored for her three decades of work with the organization WIN NYC, which helps homeless women and their children find shelter in New York City and get back on their feet to live a prosperous life. “Every single dollar invested in WIN is investing in stability,” Ripa said at the podium.
Aside from her charitable work, Ripa spoke about finding “stability” in her career and encouraged women to “advocate” for themselves and others, championing others to “support” one another.
Ripa thanked many executives and producers who work with her on “Live!” including Debra OConnell, president of networks and television business operations at Disney Entertainment, who she heralded for supporting women in the workplace, saying, “You lead by example”; Michael Gelman, the longtime executive producer of “Live!”; and Art Moore, the executive in charge of production at “Live!” and WABC-TV’s vice president of programming who has been with ABC for over 50 years.
“I’m truly humbled for the recognition, but when you acknowledge me, you are really acknowledging the we,” Ripa said, addressing the room. “There are many people responsible for the successes I’ve had and the voice I’ve been able to share every morning for almost 23 years.”
The award was presented by her best friend and Bravo honcho Andy Cohen, who delivered the laughs when he took the stage, while emotionally praising Ripa’s loyalty, friendship and remarkable talent. “As a new girl dad, I am so inspired by you, Kelly, and I hope my daughter sees in you that possibility is limitless,” Cohen told Ripa. “As her friend of 16 years,” he added, “I can also tell you that Kelly Ripa has put up with some grade-A bullshit that men in her situation would never have to deal with.”
While commending her longevity on morning television, Cohen also noted that Ripa’s larger-than-life personality would have made her an excellent reality star: “She would have been a great ‘Housewife’ by the way — but I digress,” Cohen quipped, recommending her for the New Jersey franchise.
Ripa, a native of New Jersey, spoke about her early days in New York City where she was scraping by, like many, with dreams of making it in the entertainment business. She eventually landed her breakout role on the soap opera “All My Children,” but her first few years did not come easy.
“When I moved to New York City 34 years ago, I had no plan, almost no money, and no industry connections,” Ripa said, sharing that she did not have a place to stay, but she found an acting coach who was willing to rent her an office space in midtown Manhattan for $50 per month. “I would come in before closing time and then lock all 15 deadbolts and chain links on the door and tuck in under her desk for the night,” Ripa said, adding, “I pounded the pavement and heard a whole lot of ‘no’s.'” She eventually saved enough money to move into a studio apartment, shared with two other girls. “The place was so tiny, but it had a kitchenette and a bathroom, and it felt stable. It was that stability at home that allowed me to forge ahead and focus on work and building a future for myself.”
“I’m big on stability. It’s kinda my thing,” she continued. “And even though I chose a profession not known for it, I had the great fortune of hitching myself to a handful of shows that allowed me to start and raise my family in the same city and have my kids go to the same schools and I was able to be fully present in their lives. I know what a rare privilege that is. I have been employed by ABC in New York City my entire career. This place has been so good to me and to my family.”
In her Power of Women cover story, Ripa spoke about the sexism she faced in the television news business, as she worked her way to the top, now having hosted “Live!” for 23 seasons, keeping the show at the top of daytime ratings, currently ranking number one among syndicated talk shows. Ripa revealed that in the first 10 years at “Live,” she had to fight to get her own office, and instead was stationed in a janitor’s closet at work. She said that she did not have access to her own private bathroom in a dressing room and had to share a restroom with the audience members, while her male co-host Regis Philbin had his own. She did not get paid vacation time or maternity leave or a wardrobe budget. It wasn’t until 2016 — more than 15 years she had been on the show — at the time when her former co-host Michael Strahan left that Ripa felt she finally got the salary she deserved, certainly in comparison to men in the TV news business.
Ripa explained in her cover story that she hopes her stories will encourage other women to speak up for themselves in the workplace. “It’s the only reason I speak out,” she said. “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.”
As Ripa heads into her 24th season hosting “Live,” she will be joined by her fourth co-host, her husband Mark Consuelos, who is stepping in after the departure of her friend, Ryan Seacrest. During her Power of Women speech, Ripa thanked her “work husband” and her real “husband.”
“Ryan Seacrest, you’re a true friend and ally,” Ripa said. “And Mark Consuelos, you have always been my biggest champion. You are my favorite partner in life, in work and in adventure.”
Looking ahead at Ripa’s future with her husband on morning television, Cohen evoked his sense of humor and gave a glimpse into his close friendship with Ripa. “When they get sick of ‘Live,’ I know they have a massive future on OnlyFans,” he said.