Go Ricki! Go Ricki! It’s the Ricki Lake Episode!
When V thinks back to their childhood, they remember rushing home from school to watch the Ricki Lake Show. That’s where they learned about diverse relationships, how to stand up to bullies, and that wearing blazers is cool. Now, V’s talking to the show’s iconic star about how she went from starring in Hairspray to being the youngest talk show host that audiences had seen to producing documentaries inspired by her personal stories. This jam-packed journey is what inspired Ricki’s new retrospective program with Lemonada, “Raised By Ricki,” and it turns out her life today is just as full: of happiness, love, and podcasts.
Click this link for a list of current sponsors and discount codes for this show and all Lemonada shows go to lemonadamedia.com/sponsors.
Joining Lemonada Premium is a great way to support our show and get bonus content. Subscribe today at bit.ly/lemonadapremium.
V Spehar, Ricki Lake
V Spehar 00:04
Hey friends how about we start today’s show off by playing a little game? Let’s call it count how many times V almost cries while talking to Ricki Lake because holy wiffle balls, my friends, I am chatting with the iconic Ricki Lake today. I am not even joking when I say I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life growing up with Ricki Lake from her turn as the original Tracy Turnblad to movies like hairspray, cry, baby cereal, mom, Mrs Winterbourne, and of course, her very own talk show The Ricki Lake Show, which I used to watch religiously with my mom and grandma, like every day after school, totally appropriate. In fact, that’s how we learned a lot about like what was going on in the country because of the Ricki Lake Show. I mean, I did think that baby daddy drama was going to be maybe a bigger part of my everyday life as an adult, but luckily, so far not. Unlike so many of you. I am reliving some of her talk shows most memorable moments to her brand new Lemonada Media original podcast raised by Ricki joined by her co-host, Kalen Allen. Ricky looks back on the show that ran for 11 years. What Episode Do you remember the most was that the TV psychics maybe I loved them. I loved that they were all so good. I am so excited to talk to this entertainment legend about the raised by Ricky podcast as well as her musical theater roots, her John Waters film period and the lessons she learned in Hollywood over these last three decades. So Ricki, welcome, thank you so much for being here. This is like truly a dream come true for me because I am new to this whole like media thing. And I do the news on Tik Tok and I do this show which deals with news and politics and folks will always ask me like, who were your journalist inspirations as a kid and I know shit every single time. Say, Ricki Lake.
Ricki Lake 01:58
Well, okay, that’s so funny to me. First of all, it’s a pleasure to talk to you. As I told you before, I’m a fan. I am a new fan. But I really appreciate how you deliver the news in a way that’s easily digestible for regular folk like me, I am not a trained journalist. I went to Ithaca College for one year as a musical theater major, you know, and I was gonna switch to communications I never got the chance because I never went back. I got hairspray and I was like, see ya, but yeah, it’s like instinct, pretty much.
V Spehar 02:26
when I say like, what was journalism to me as a kid growing up in like suburban Connecticut, like in a very working class normal town, being practically raised by like, my grandma and I had a really young mom, so our version of like, what’s going on in the world was Ricki Lake Sally Jessy Raphael Donohue, you know, that was like, our window to the world.
Ricki Lake 02:46
I appreciate that. Because I do agree the times back then. And it’s, you know, it’s doing this project, this new podcast of mine, where I’m really getting to look at the show that in a way that I never did, I was just in it. And so I didn’t really have reverence for this, what we were able to offer young people at that time, you know, there really wasn’t a lot of other offerings of, you know, programming, you know, other than local news, we were always opposite local news in what was called early fringe. So it was always after school before dinner. And it was like, must see TV for a certain genre of people like yourself, I guess. And, you know, it was a way to really amplify what was going on with young people when it came to relationships, you know, it was any in every kind of relationship, it really did serve a purpose. That doesn’t really exist anymore. You know, that kind of television. I just don’t think it works today with anymore so disjointed and so fragmented with the offerings. I mean, it’s just look at the podcast market. You know, it’s like 1000s and 1000s to listen to that. It’s really hard to get a large group together watching one thing at once.
V Spehar 03:54
And when I was telling folks on TikTok that I was going to be interviewing the great Ricki Lake, everyone was like, Yeah, I used to watch her when I got home from school. You did exactly what you said. You feel that time where kids were coming home from school. It was like two hours before my dad got home from work. And so my mom would like spend the whole day talking with her friends listening to the police scanner, true crime. Then Ricki Lake would come on. That was like people, and then we didn’t watch the nightly news. We watched like, Jeopardy and wheel of fortune and then went to bed. So it was like trivia true crime and tabloids, and that was what growing up in the 90s was like, that was the news for people.
Ricki Lake 04:29
Was my show something you would watch with your mom?
V Spehar 04:31
Oh, yeah, I mean, when I tell you I watched your show every single day after school, I genuinely mean that. I was like maybe 11 or 12 when your show was on, and watched it all the way through college basically completely grew up at that time with you. That’s why it’s so funny that your show is named Raised by Ricki because I truly feel like we were raised by Ricki at that time.
Ricki Lake 04:50
You know, it’s no accident. It is no accident from Lemonada Media. They came up with concept and it really does seem to resonate with so many people and it’s, it’s wild because it’s not just in this country. You know, my show was really popular in so many other places like Israel, for instance, it was like the number one show. So it’s very funny kind of fame for me, you know, because people feel very familiar. They feel like they know me. And they do, they do. I mean, I, you know, I think I’m a very different person now than I was when I did that show, which, you know, was part of the, like, looking back on it, I was 23. When I was handed that job, I did the pilot, I didn’t know any sense of who I was, or what I stood for what I believed in, I was like a newbie, you know, and it’s just so funny that like, you know, I’ve evolved, and I think all of us have evolved, and it’s just, it’s really a fun, I’m having a great time going back looking at that project from so many years ago, it’s a 30 year anniversary this year of the pilot.
V Spehar 05:45
Right. And another thing I’ll say for your show, while I’m on a rant of just complimenting you and telling you all the things I wanted to tell you for 30 years, it was so different in the sense and I try to bring a lot of this sort of vibe into @underthedesk and into V interesting. It was different in that your show prevented escalations into violence or into name calling or into like chaos, the way that like Jerry Springer show did or something. And I was reading that the guests were vetted, it was real people that were on the show, not just people who wanted to go on the show to be on TV. Why was it important for you to set those boundaries, so young?
Ricki Lake 06:18
I mean, I think it was a producer thing more than anything, you know, you know, our tagline when season was, it’s gotta be real, it’s got to be Ricky. I mean, the thing about me as the talent they chose, I mean, I wear everything on my sleeve, what you see is what you get, and I think that’s why it came really naturally for me, but I wanted that hour to be meaningful in some way. So I, you know, to have it be fake to have it be like dramatic. And, you know, you can watch sitcoms for that, you know, I wanted it to be and the producers wanted it to be authentic, you know, and I think it was for the most part. I mean, I do looking back on it, I pride myself on the fact that I treated everybody with respect, I treated everyone the way I would want to be treated. And you know, I didn’t think it was that much of a breakthrough. But like looking back, yes, I you know, treating gay couples and interracial couples. And I mean, every single relationship you could think of was treated with respect. And equally and we didn’t even like call out oh, this is the gay story. You know, we just call them out as another couple that was on the panel. And I know now that did have a very positive effect on a lot of people growing up in places where they didn’t see themselves being represented.
V Spehar 07:26
Yeah, it was really that real person this that made it so possible for people who didn’t ever see gay people like myself included to see themselves represented in a way where it was so normal. Did you realize that you yourself are a queer icon? Are you aware of this?
Ricki Lake 07:41
I am aware of that. Because I have my roots with John Waters.
V Spehar 07:45
Like before John, I mean, I’m talking your talk show queer icon.
Ricki Lake 07:49
Well, okay, explain me to me because I always think it’s came from you know, my oot chakra […] and divine.
V Spehar 07:56
Absolutely. And folks that a lot of questions about that, but some of the things that we were chatting about where Ricki Lake, the fashion queer icon and just the world that you opened up for people who didn’t want to dress, let’s say, traditionally feminine because you used to wear these blazers, and I convinced my own mother that Ricki Lake wears blazers, I could wear blazers, to my Roman Catholic confirmation, I wear a suit, and she was like, well, yeah, I guess you know, the people you like on TV, they wear suits, so you could wear a suit and I was like, okay, that’s amazing, huge, huge. And you had a really short haircut and that was the first time that I was able to convince my mother to let me cut my hair to it was that like, like, you know, it was like the Demi Moore haircut/
Ricki Lake 08:35
It was the Demi Moore haircut act, no, I was trying to go for her and ghost and it never quite got there.
V Spehar 08:42
but you were such a good friend to people and that it made sense to like your viewers at home to imitate you as they would their friend setting a trend and be like oh well I can dress like that I can cut my hair like this and so my mother let me cut my hair to sort of like fall down like that and now it’s like the same haircut is just pushed up in a pompadour now good you have a lot more hair than I do.
Ricki Lake 09:01
That is so funny. No, I did not I was not aware of that. And the reason I wore those Blazers was to make me look older and more mature. Like it made sense to be in that role. And they sort of like in me to like, you know, the young Sally Jessy Raphael, like they would look at that look and try to kind of emulate that in a hipper way. I was definitely not hip and the clothes I wore. I mean, I’m glad it served a purpose for you and maybe..
V Spehar 09:23
Young, iconic lesbian fashion. Absolutely.
Ricki Lake 09:28
And you know why I cut my hair. I cut my hair at that time. So this was in 1995-96. I just finished a movie called Mrs. Winterbourne. Yeah, I had gone on a crash diet and lost like 35 pounds in a very short amount of time and then my hair started falling out. And that was the first time I, you know hairspray obviously my hair was peroxide it that was all my hair and my hair just shed and it was you know, it went through a real kind of healing process. But it was years later when I did that movie Mrs. Winterbourne that all my hair dumped and just shed and I just had to cut it all off because I was so self-conscious. Yeah, that was the beginning of my journey of like my deep dark secret of dealing with my, my hair. And then we used to do these shows on my show that were some of my favorites, these weave wars, where we’d have these mostly Black women, and they would do these incredible elaborate hairdos and we’d have these contests and it was it mean, it was it was fun. It was hilarious. And I was obsessed. You know, I’ve had an obsession with hair for a really long time. Part of it has been my you know, my, struggles. But yeah, the short haircut came from that.
V Spehar 10:30
And there were so many episodes that I wanted to fan girl with you over. And I’m that’s why I’m so glad you have this podcast now where we get to like, go back and revisit so many episodes. But the one in particular that stood out to me was the Fred Phelps episode. Do you remember that one?
Ricki Lake 10:46
Yes, yes, yes, I do remember. And it was really, it was a specific move to do something more kind of newsy and topical like it was it was more issue oriented. And I didn’t know what to expect, because I was brand new, and I was the darling on TV. I was this huge hit. And he came on and I you know; I knew what he’d been doing. He was picketing it at AIDS victims funerals and going after these families. I mean, he was disgusting. And under the guise of a church, the Westboro Baptist Church, and I just remember, you know, I was 25. I just turned 25. And he was attacking me. And I, you know, he’s saying things. I mean, I don’t know if you recall, but he said I worship my rectum. What does that mean? Even like, what is that about? I mean, I was piecing it together. And he was throwing these proverbs at me. I did not grow up religious at all. I’m Jewish, and I don’t know what he was talking about. So I in that moment, did I look scared? Did I look like I was a deer in the headlights?
V Spehar 11:46
You didn’t look like a deer in the headlights? You just snapped out of being a talk show host and you were like, What did you just say to me? Did you hear what he just said to me like with the whole audience, and people were like, yeah, cuz he said, you, Ricki, you worship at the altar of your own rectum? I didn’t think you look scared. I thought you looked like you were gonna walk up on stage and pop them honestly, like.
Ricki Lake 12:10
Really. Well, I was shaking in my boots, my shoes, my little heels. I was shaking, because I had never been disrespected on my show before. And so it was this moment of like, what do I do? What do I do? My wheels were turning and you know, that I did not wear […]. So one of the things my whole, never because it made it took me out of where I was where I was going, you know. And I just didn’t like my control room. My director and producers, they didn’t really they wanted to have access to me in that way. But it just was never comfortable for me. So for me, it was like really figuring it out on the fly by myself. And I just in that moment, I just kicked him off the show. I just said, you know, I don’t you may be a reverend. And I can’t relate to what you’re saying. But this is my show. This is my house, get out, get out. And we walked him off. And that was the first time I mean, it happened very infrequently, where I was disrespected. In my you know, in my home.
V Spehar 13:03
He was laughing the whole time. It was the most unhinged, I mean, watching it as a kid, I don’t even know if I really remember exactly so much about it. I do remember my mom being really worked up because my mother worked in health care. And she worked with AIDS patients. So like she was aware of what was going on. But he kept calling people ignorant, fag, and you were like, can we not use that language? And he’s like that language is in the Bible. And then this gay man stood up and is like, I think you’re talking about bag a bundle of sticks. I’m gonna tell you that stuck with me in the bullies in high school was like a fag is a bundle of sticks. There were so many things, because my mom would repeat the things from the show to so it was like, it was such a thing.
Ricki Lake 13:41
I mean, I also like I remember just I was afterwards, I felt like I’d been thrown to the lions a little bit. And I remember just being rattled. And just why do we have to give this these people a platform like what you know, like really asking the question of like, are we doing a disservice by having this person spew this hate? You know, and I do believe it’s better to see these people in the light and hear what they’re up to, rather than, you know, behind closed doors or underground on the DL or something.
V Spehar 14:08
I thought it was good for the audience to see, the audience at home to see that the audience in person was also you could see their blood pressure getting up and then getting defensive. And you weren’t even calling on people anymore. It was just like a free for all conversation that was going on in this episode.
Ricki Lake 14:22
Yeah. And I also I think, through that experience, I really felt like the audience has my back. You know, I’ve just always felt so supported by not only the people in the audience, but people at home, we always kind of rally to my defense.
V Spehar 14:37
There were couple of really good things that I felt came out of it. There was a mom that you had on also in this episode whose son was gay, and she had been a member of the church and she had kind of like, turned away from him and it was turning back and she quoted Bob Barker in the episode, saying if no one challenged religious authority in Scripture, there would be no democracy, no women’s rights, no public schools, no pursuit of science and medicine and no laws. against child abuse. And man did that piss Fred Phelps off?
Ricki Lake 15:02
Oh my gosh, wow. And just hearing those that that today, it’s exactly the same. And I think that’s what’s really, I mean, it’s so different and it’s so exactly the same. Yeah, he’s long dead. And, you know, I went on to do another talk show, I had another talk show for just a year in 2012. And we had I remember the family, the children of Reverend Fred Phelps on, and they were no longer part of the church. And I believe they made amends to me on behalf of their father. Yeah. And he had written a book. I mean, and I, again, I think it brought up at that time, what why are we bringing these people back? Like, why are we you know, but, you know, it was cathartic. It was definitely healing. And yeah, it’s, it’s crazy, like to think back, you know, and when I think of my show, I think of just the, you know, the light, you know, baby daddy and cheating, you know, all that drama baby mama drama. And yet, you know, there was so many like issues and things that were really substantive and really like that the ripple effect years later, you know, people still remember.
V Spehar 16:09
It was yeah, it was the first time I saw a young lesbian say, I’m a good person, I’m going to heaven. It was the first time that we had seen healthy young men living with AIDS in the audience. They weren’t even the guests. They were just there because they were living their life. And I think all of that was so important. And especially you closing with the message of love for gay people and saying, you may not have community, but encourage them to reach out for help. And it really just showed people that there is a life beyond just the rhetoric that was coming from the religious side, you know, condemning people. And it felt like the gays won that day. So I was like, Thanks, Ricki for that way.
Ricki Lake 16:43
They won many days on that. You know, I love my gays. John Waters, boy, God bless him for plucking me from complete obscurity and just opened up my world to the most amazing people doing the most amazing thing having a great fucking time.
V Spehar 17:01
We’re going to take a quick break and when we get back we’re going to talk a little bit more about that early start with John Waters and all of the hairspray fun times we’ll have that when we get back. Okay, Ricki, so just before the break, we talked about the fact that, you know, these are real people’s lives who were on as guests and you know, the slogan of it’s gotta be real, it’s got to be Ricky. And they do have to go back to those small towns. And before you were the talk show host you played a lot of these kind of like, small town girl does something really big in movies that featured content, the average American had never seen like drag queens, teenage delinquents, serial killer moms, just the city of Baltimore, in general, I don’t think people really knew a lot about did you feel like your acting career and development for those characters helped you better understand the kind of like seedy side of humanity before you started the Ricki Lake Show?
Ricki Lake 18:03
Are you saying Baltimore City, what are you saying? Yeah, I mean, I think it’s just exposed me to like this group of people like working in Baltimore, with the Dreamland family, John Waters crew, which, you know, they all come on and do the same movies with him time and time again, and creating these characters. Yeah, I think it was definitely the perfect stepping stone to becoming a talk show host. I mean, it was never a calculated move. None. Nothing in my career has ever been with the exception of my documentary work. But nothing really has been, like, Ah, I’m gonna do this, or I think I’ll be good at this. It’s really the opportunity that presented itself to me, my friends talk about the fact that I don’t have the doubt gene in me, like, I don’t ever really doubt myself, I just kind of assume I’ll wing it, and I’ll make it work, you know, but I do. Like, I just think I have this ability to kind of step into these things. You know, I love that my career has taken all these twists and turns. I love reinventing myself. I love proving to myself and to others that I can do other things. But John Waters start is absolutely been like the most amazing thing to kind of introduce myself to the world through the you know, through being Tracy Turnblad because I really was that character, you know?
V Spehar 19:17
Yeah. How did it happen? I don’t think I know like; how did you get to hairspray?
Ricki Lake 19:22
Yeah, I was a freshman at Ithaca College. I was a musical theater major, as I told you, and I was not thriving there. Like I was a very big […] over 200 pounds. And I was not cast in one show. I was you know, there was a teacher there that really, I mean, I think she was against like fat people. Honestly, I think she was yeah. And she held it against me my size and she just discouraged me. I didn’t think I was talented. Didn’t think I would make it she was encouraging me to get out of the program. And then it was during finals week that I read or I got a call someone had said they were looking for a basically a big girl who could dance for this John Waters movie now I had never heard of John Waters. I had didn’t know Divine was, but I had a break in my finals week of school. And I drove down the five hour drive, got a speeding ticket on the way and met John Waters. And it was just one of those things, I had to read a couple of scenes. I don’t even remember what I was wearing a big with a college sweatshirt, and he was trying to like size up whether I was really as big as I looked, you know, that I’d maybe patted myself. And then I got a call back the next time I had a dance. And he picked me, you know, he just felt like I was the girl. And you know, I didn’t know what to expect. I really I in my head, I was so kind of new and green. I didn’t even process that I was the star of this movie. Like, it was always like, because I was working every single day with all these kids, these younger kids that could were thin and could dance. And then I was making the movie like I you know; I just was in it was in the experience. And it was after the fact that like John sat me down and said, you know, your life is about to change. And he gave me like really great advice when I was super young. I was 18. And really, you know, the movie did. I wasn’t a huge hit. I mean, but it was a critical darling. And then what happened is Divine died. Eight days after the movie opened literally, like, the first week I became a star, you know, which is what my character becomes in the movie. It was like life imitating art and then my costar who was just on this rise, died in his sleep at 42 years of age. And so it was that it was like both having to deal with like this, this joy and this trauma and tragedy at the same exact time. And it was something it was such a crazy like vortex to be in, you know?
V Spehar 21:38
What was Divine, like, people wonder what he was like off camera?
Ricki Lake 21:42
He was not a drag queen. He did not like that term at all. He was simply an actor who got paid to dress and drag. You know, he was really serious. Like, he was super fun. He was super fun. But he took his craft very serious. He didn’t like me at first. I mean, if the story is true, he kind of wanted to play both roles. Because in female trouble if you’ve seen all of John’s movies, so female trouble, he played the mother and the daughter, Don Davenport. So he wanted to play Tracy and Edna. And so he was kind of like, you know, who is this girl, so he was like, giving me shit at the beginning. But he did teach me to walk in high heels. He did love to share food with me and eat with me. He wore these big smile shirts, he had them in every color. And you know, he was enormous. Probably 350-400 pounds. And he was so unique. And so like, like, I can only imagine what his career would have happened, you know, after that, because he had so much life left to live. And I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to work so closely with him. He has missed, you know, John and I talk about him a lot still. And it’s like, none of us have really gotten over his loss and the timing of it.
V Spehar 22:53
I know so many people sharing that feeling as well, because it’s like, you know, we have all this with RuPaul drag race right now. And you know, divine was really such a solid part of that even RuPaul even being able to exist like apps […]
Ricki Lake 23:08
He paved the way, he certainly did. And that, you know, that’s his legacy, you know, his legacy lives on you look at Ursula, the character in The Little Mermaid. That was absolutely picked from divine. And yes, I mean, the route and RuPaul was always on my show. I mean, RuPaul was on probably two dozen times on my old show. He Yeah, so it’s, it’s, I mean, divine has left his mark, for sure.
V Spehar 23:34
John Waters being a mentor and friend to you all of these years. Is there any advice that he’s given you that you can give to young people who are interested in getting into acting?
Ricki Lake 23:43
Yes, absolutely. So when I was, you know, I had finished making hairspray at the very end, he sat me down. And it was like a serious conversation. He said, I want to, I want to let you know that your life is about to change. And I want you to remember these three things. Always stay humble. Always stay true to yourself. And if you’re gonna read and believe the good things people write about you, you’re gonna have to read and believe the bad. And this was back when you know, you can’t look on your phone. We didn’t have cell phones, but like we had reviews and whatever. And it was just the perfect piece of advice at that time because I you know, I’ve been in this business, I’m 54 now, I have been around I’ve had failures, I’ve had successes. And he really did in that moment, I think Teach me to be grounded to take it all like with a grain of salt and just be grateful and be myself. And I think that anyone who’s known me for this for that long would agree that I’m I am pretty much the same person I was when I was, you know, plucked from Ithaca College to do that movie and I have him to thank for that.
V Spehar 24:45
You say you have to read the good and the bad reviews. The 90s were a very difficult time for the tabloids and the […]. I mean, this was like the height of that kind of stuff. And I can’t imagine how they ask us now like with bing, TikTok famous or whatever, like, do you read the comments? Or like, how do you handle this level of public scrutiny? Because there are 1000s of them.
Ricki Lake 25:08
And do you read them?
V Spehar 25:10
Yeah, absolutely. You have to because you have to know what the people like, right? And you have to give them what they want. And it’s hard. I don’t read the ugly ones. Some of the ugly ones. I’m like, ah, god.
Ricki Lake 25:20
Now you do you flip through them. You got to see that it’s ugly in order to move past it, you know?
V Spehar 25:24
Yeah, I think I share with you this idea that like, nobody loves me, like, I love me truly, I love myself in a way that like, I can be really self-deprecating to myself internally. But if someone else says something to me, like, well, I don’t think he’s that great. I’m like, let me tell you how great I am. Like, all of a sudden, that’s when like, your confidence comes alive for some reason. Maybe it’s the musical theater training.
Ricki Lake 25:44
I mean, well, I think it’s with age. I mean, I’ve always kind of dug myself, I think I’m really cool and unique. And I’m doing cool shit and my life. But with age, you know, because I’m a lot older than them. I’m 54, as I said, but I think when I turned 50 I definitely had that, that where I don’t know what other people think about me is none of my business, you know, and that, and you do kind of come into this place of like, I don’t care. I mean, back in the 90s. I’m trying to think it’s like I didn’t like when things weren’t true about me when things were saying things that weren’t accurate and true. That bothers me, because I you know, I have nothing to hide, I have really nothing to hide. You know, I mean, the biggest kind of example of that, as I shaved my head and came out, telling my secret that was the thing I didn’t want, exposed, you know, and I was like, finally took the matters into my own hands. Because I felt like I had no choice. I felt like I can’t live this authentic life and be totally open and be me without being completely me. You know?
V Spehar 26:46
Yeah, it is always those little things that I mean, they’re not little but the things that we’re so afraid of that somebody’s going to find out. And then they’re going to expose those like, whether that is that we’re losing our hair, or my we just did a show with Stephanie, a couple, like weeks ago now where I revealed that my brother had passed away and […]. That someone would make fun of me. So you’d have to take it back and own it in some ways. And now that it’s out there, have people said rude things. Yeah. Have people said really nice things more. Absolutely. But it’s in my control to say I’m the one who got to tell that story in the way that I wish it be told and not be, you know, entertainmentalized or something.
Ricki Lake 27:25
Yes, no, you get to control the narrative. And the same thing, like I lost my second husband to suicide and mental illness. And that was something like, I felt like I didn’t have a choice. Like I needed. I’ve been an open book, I’ve been completely forthcoming about everything and my weight, you name it, my, my first divorce, whatever. And with Christian, it’s been part of my healing process is by sharing, you know? Yeah, I don’t know any other way. And so I get so much back by telling the story, sharing his legacy. I’ve learned so much about mental health, like just from my own experience, and it’s just made me more a more well-rounded person, you know, to be open about my stuff.
V Spehar 28:13
And not to do the thing that I do all the time. We just try to lighten the mood with humor. But a lot of folks wanted to know about serial mom, speaking of people, movies and stuff that deals with sort of the dark humor side of the terrible things that happen in this world that we have to overcome and try to find community around. They wanted to know what it was like working with that cast? What it was like being in that, you know, early cult classic dark comedy, dealing with something like your mom killing people on your behalf like.
Ricki Lake 28:43
Yeah, yeah, I mean, that one was super fun. So I did three Big John wonders, movies back to back hairspray was the first one at 18. I did at 20. I did does cry baby with Johnny Depp and that whole crazy cast. And then when I was 24, right before I was starting my talk show, I was doing serial mom with that crazy, crazy cast and literally went from the Baltimore you know, three and a half months shoot and that summer and started at the end of July to start taping the Ricki Lake show in New York, you know, move across country. And I remember telling Suzanne […] like while we were doing the courtroom scene. Oh, yeah. moving to New York, and I’m starting this talk show. And she like laughed out loud. She was like, but it was so funny. And I was like, yeah, you know, so no one really took it that seriously at that time. But making that movie was really fun. Kathleen Turner was not necessarily a fan of mine, because I was 24 and she was like, did not like that. I was playing a 17 year old and playing her daughter. She felt like I was too old. And I remember that, but I grew on her. It was fine. You know, kind of like divine getting used to the fact that yeah, playing Tracy Turnblad and Matthew Lillard was super fun. I mean it was just every time working on because I’ve made a lot of movies. I’ve done like a bunch of movies, but John’s you know, there’s something about his sets and the way he operates and the people that work with him time and time again. And I’m hoping I hear he has a couple of projects in the works. So I’m hoping that A, he makes another film, And B, that he finds something for me to do in it.
V Spehar 30:09
He has to, you’re like, iconic to John Waters, you can’t have one without.
Ricki Lake 30:14
It’s more about whether he’s gonna get this project happening. I think I hope he will. Because I think you know, he’s got a few more in him.
V Spehar 30:20
I mean, do we need to start a GoFundMe? I feel like every single person who loved him when we were kids watching these movies and young adults, maybe has enough money to make it work. We commit.
Ricki Lake 30:32
I’m lining up too, I mean, I’m all for seeing what he has, you know, in coming down the pike. I mean, he has his latest book is called liar mouth. It’s so funny. It’s because he’s a writer, you know, people forget he’s a fine artist I have my house is filled with his art. He’s just incredible. Like, like, I just I feel so lucky that I was able to be his muse a few times. And to see him operate up close. I mean, I just had dinner with him a couple of weeks ago. Did you see him in Bill Maher? It was so hilarious. He’s the best. He’s just the best. And he’s, you know, he’s 76 now, and he’s just, as he’s young, and yeah, he’s fantastic. I love him.
V Spehar 31:13
Well, we’re going to take another quick break. And when we get back, we’re going to chat about the podcast, the new project, so we’ll have that right when we get back. Welcome back, friends, we are chatting with the iconic Ricki Lake about her talk show and the movie career. We didn’t even get to talk about your time on Dancing with the Stars, which I also watched and loved, like Derek Hoff.
Ricki Lake 31:49
He was amazing. And I actually have a picture of us, because I have like little pictures of like stuff in my career on my wall here. And he was he made me a dancer, because I wasn’t you know, to call me a dancer from hairspray. That doesn’t count. I did the mashed potato and the twist. That’s not bothered. But that did not give me any sort of extra like, like moves to go into Dancing with the Stars is a totally different thing. He is one of the most talented I mean, he’s up there with John Waters in my mind, like when I was working with Derek which, which was in 2011. So 11 years ago, and I’m watching him work, you know, because it’s it really is he creates you get the top of the week, as soon as you make the cut for the you know, the live show on Tuesday, Wednesday morning, you get to work and you see the style of dance that you’re gonna have to do the song, you’re going to do it too. And I would watch him come up with like, the story. And the characters. And I mean, every aspect from the, from the costumes and the colors. And he was, it was magic. It was magic and what he was able to get me to do and I was so self-conscious about my weight, even though I wasn’t heavy during that. I’m so used to being the heavy girl, He lifted me over his head, which was like a phobia of for me, like for anybody to pick me up, I feel like I’m gonna break their back. He really helped me to like, heal in a lot of ways. And in the cast that I worked with, it was an incredible year. I mean, from like Nancy Grace to like Hope Solo to David Arquette. And I mean, it was Carson Kressley was on our show, and it was Rob Kardashian. So my husband, Christian, my beautiful partner that passed away, he would sit with all the Kardashians in the front row. I mean, it was surreal. And it was a blast. I love my time doing this show.
V Spehar 33:41
It was very fun to watch. I’m gonna tell you again, my mom and my grandma watched because they were rooting for you again. You never lost a fan in your whole career that I that I know of anyway, I mean, maybe you know differently. But now we have the podcast a chance to kind of like revisit all the stuff that we loved about the 90s get to check in with you again. And it’s right here on the sweet baby Lemonada Network.
Ricki Lake 34:04
I’m honored to be on the roster with Lemonada Media because I’d been asked to do a podcast forever and nothing ever sat right with me. You know, it just didn’t it felt. I don’t know. I just didn’t feel like there was an angle that really made sense. And when they approached me about going back and rewatching my old show, it’s something I’ve never really did. I’ve lived it. So I never really looked back at it. And I was on to other things. So it’s just really fun. And I have to say Kalen Allen, my co-host, he’s another one he’s another like, like super talented, so hard working. He’s a star. He’s a star and I knew it. The second I met him and I wasn’t familiar with his work. You know, I was I come in like, like, I’m sort of in not in the know. And he’s so fun because he’s 26 years old. He’s Black, he’s gay, and he’s sort of watching him for the first time and it’s just a really fun experiment at for me like just I’m so enjoying In this this journey, you know, that we’re going on together, it’s great.
V Spehar 35:04
What felt right about doing a retrospective instead of doing something totally brand new?
Ricki Lake 35:09
Well, because like, because, you know, there was never this kind of specific angle with any other company that I was talking to. And I just kind of felt like I would run out of things to talk about, like what you know, I mean, I have a lot of interest in I have a lot of, you know, I make these documentaries about women’s reproductive health. And it’s totally like, stuff I’m super, super into. But it really felt like with nostalgia right now with the 90s, in particular, it and we’re all just like reminiscing for those days, again, it just felt like this is something that I think the audience that did grew up with me that do, you know, and it’s not just they have this thing with me, it’s really the experience of being a part of this community, with the show, you know, it really was this, like, this generation, that that was heard and seen and got to, like, learn from each other, and what not to do in relationships, you know, and I think it’s, it was a big deal for so many people. So I just think it’s like an almost like an offering. And I get to go back and look at myself and how I behaved and what I thought and said at that time. It’s just, it feels meaningful to me, you know?
V Spehar 36:16
What do you think when you look back?
Ricki Lake 36:19
I think it’s a bit presumptuous that I was given that platform, you know, again, it’s like, it’s hard for me to not like just like, like, embrace that younger me, you know, it’s like I was a bonehead. And to give you an example, because I, you know, I made a documentary about cannabis a few years ago called weed the people and it looks at cannabis as a medicine, particularly with children with cancer. So I was someone back then. I’m the product of Nancy Reagan, just showing the war on drugs. Yeah. So I was so close minded and fear filled, I was not a cannabis user. At that time, I was not interested, like, I was just very close minded, you know, and I think now, who I am now, and what I believe, and when I think I’m much more open, I’m much more like, I’m less fear filled, you know, and I’ve done, you know, a lot of plant medicine and like, I have just gone the other direction, you know, I’m super into psychedelic research and, you know, mental health stuff, because of the loss of my, my partner. Like, I’ve just, I just feel like I’ve just been, like, shone the light or something, you know, and so when I think back of who I was, then I just was like, so young, and, and green and, and a little judgmental, you know, maybe it didn’t come across on the show, because I, you know, like I said, I really, really, you know, I would treat everyone equally. But I think in deep inside I was, you know, not nearly as evolved as I am now.
V Spehar 37:45
Do you think there was a time where it would have been too soon to do a kind of retrospective?
Ricki Lake 37:50
I don’t know. I mean, I do think that the timing is everything, you know, and things happen exactly when they’re supposed to. And so, and I’m at this place in my life, where I’m, you know, really settled into my home, I’m in this new marriage. And so the timing for me to do this project, which is, like I said, more time consuming than I thought it was going to be like my old show I used to do to time, just so you know, we didn’t do it. We did live seasons two and three, we did some live shows. But we would basically tape an hour show in an hour, and we’d be done. Unless it was a pageant unless it was like drag queens or whatever. And we had to stop down for set changes. But for the most part, we did it to time. So I would go to work I do at 330 to 530 I’d be done by 630 I’d be out you know. Yeah, it was it was like a machine. And so I kind of thought the podcast to like I’d come on and talk for an hour. And you know, there’s one show in the can No, it’s not like that at all. But yeah, the timing was right for me with this. And I think with the audience, you know, like nine I don’t know what it is about 90s nostalgia, but it is all the rage these days.
V Spehar 38:49
What shows are you most looking forward to revisiting?
Ricki Lake 38:53
Oh, I don’t even know if it’s a specific show. But people like we have this woman on Candace Cox. Of course, I don’t really remember her. But we reunited her with her family. She found out that she had 11 siblings that she didn’t know about. And we brought them to New York for her and surprised her. And I mean, you would think I gave her like she won lotto. And I gave her $20 million, the way she talks about this experience and how she went into a specific type of therapy work where she works with intergenerational trauma, because of her appearance, really meeting her family for the first time on my show. So I look forward to kind of revisiting people that had experiences that hopefully were positive on my show, but like to find out what happened after you know, what kind of reaction they got when they back went back home. What you know, it’s, it’s, it’s like more real people stuff that I get really into.
V Spehar 39:45
I think that’s just so exciting to look forward to. And you were on for so long. I mean, this podcast could go for another 11 years.
Ricki Lake 39:53
And I basically ended it like I didn’t I mean; we my contract ran out and we chose not to renew I wanted to live in Kent. California after 911 I was so freaked out about that I had I had young children, I was going through a divorce. I mean, I, I wanted to change, change up my trajectory. And that’s when I got into documentary film work and yeah, it’s all been like this crazy ride I did not anticipate I never thought I’d be in California raising my children here. But I also never thought that we, you know, those towers would ever collapse you know, I mean, it’s just life is just so crazy. And mostly a gift. You know, I mean, my all my trauma and all the stuff I’ve gone through has brought me to the beautiful place, you know?
V Spehar 40:51
You said that you in addition to the podcasts are working on these documentary films in 2008, you released the business of being born. And last year, you released the business of birth control, which are just so incredibly hot topics right now with so little good information. What drew you to these projects,
Ricki Lake 41:09
It was my personal story. So the first film the business of being born with stemmed from, I was just wanting to explore the world of birth in the United States, I could not understand why my peers and colleagues that I respect around me, didn’t seem to care about the process of giving birth, they wanted to help the baby in their arms, and they didn’t care how the baby got there. And I, for the most part, I’m generalizing. But I felt like this opportunity is being missed by so many women to be, like, empowered during their experience wherever they choose to deliver. And so that project was just a labor of love, you know, three and a half years, it was all my own money. I show my own homebirth in the film. And it really has been like the seminal film that everyone watches when they’re having a baby, which has been incredible. And we just aren’t going to have a 15 year re-anniversary of the film. And we want to do a rerelease because, you know, the maternal death rate in this country is just, I mean, it’s worse now. And it’s particularly with black women. And I mean, so that the movie from 15 years ago as relevant today as it as it was then. And so, yeah, I, it’s the most fulfilling project I’ve ever done in my entire career more, more so than even the Ricki Lake show because it was personal, you know, and I was ready, and I didn’t know if anyone was going to really give a shit about this topic. You know, it was my kind of passion and my thing, but it turns out, people did care. And with the birth control film, same thing. I mean, we made this movie we started in 2013. So how many years has been and it comes out the year that Roe v. Wade is taken away from women? You know, I mean, it’s like the timing. It’s like the so it’s like, I’m about informed choice. I don’t really want to tell women what to do with their bodies. I want them to have access to all the options, and more and to have, along with that the information to make an educated choice about what we put in our bodies.
V Spehar 43:07
Right. Absolutely. I mean, like you said, it could not be more timely, and it’s just something that’s really uniting people. Again, here’s Ricki Lake, uniting the people around a really difficult topic that is uncomfortable to talk about. And if you can give people language in a space, even if they’re referencing, hey, I watched this movie, and this is what I learned in it and maybe what do you think about it? It’s just such a gift to them.
Ricki Lake 43:28
It’s a conversation starter. I mean, that’s what the business of being born has been. I think so many people, you know, after that movie, which was 14 years ago, everyone walked out of and said, what’s a doula to think that people today can you imagine them saying what’s a doula? You know? So I think that movie really, you know, they say it takes 10 years to see the effect the change. And that’s true with that, with that film, we could say that there’s been significant change, at least in awareness, you know, but it’s really important information. And I’m really proud of that work.
V Spehar 44:03
When I told the TikTok fam that I was gonna get to chat with you. They had a lot of questions too. And while we’ve been chatting out of all my curiosities a lot, so far, would you be willing to answer a couple questions from TikTok? Alright, great. So they really wanted to know I was like, I get to talk to Ricki Lake. What do you want to know? And there was a couple of questions about the show, but most people were like, Oh my God, my girl Ricky, how is she like How was my friend like? That was the way that it went. They want to know what you’re up to not your work stuff, but just you as a person. I wanted to know yeah; I know you just got married.
Ricki Lake 44:40
He’s so awesome. His name is […], he’s so cute. He’s amazing. Like I just I believe I’m very spiritual. I become more spiritual as I’ve gotten older and I believe my deceased husband Beck’s has been Christian. I believe he handpick the sky because this guy is my person and we are, were like two kids. You know, he’s an ex-devout Mormon. So he was, which is fascinating. And it’s why I started dating him in the first place. I wanted to ask him everything about Mormonism. And so he was a devout Mormon until 35. So like, literally can you imagine? And so now he’s with me and so all the fun that he never got to have to have with me. And we are we’re like Benjamin Button. I mean, it’s we get high every night. We get naked and high every night. And we’re just having a blast. Like, I just am like these. I still have work in me like I still want to create. But that’s not me. And I raised my kids. My kids were empty nesters. We have six grown kids that are all out of the house and on their own. And it’s like our time you know, and so I’m having a I’m having a blast.
V Spehar 45:49
I just love the thought of this. Just Ricki Lake howling at the moon naked with a new husband. What a wonderful time. I was gonna say are your children in the media at all?
Ricki Lake 46:03
No, I wouldn’t say no interest. But I don’t think I mean; I think my kids don’t want to hear from me like they don’t want to follow my footsteps I call I talk to them at Burning Man. I’m a big burner. And I’ve done I would love to bring them they want no part of it. If it’s me sharing it, it’s gonna have to be like their peers kind of sharing it with them. But they’re private. They’re musicians. They’re super talented. My younger sons and artists. They’re amazing. But they’re very, they’re not into the limelight at all. Yeah, I’d love to like sing their praises and show them off. But now I have to like restrain myself.
V Spehar 46:43
Well, speaking of singing, that was the next question people have. They want to know if you’re going to be a singer again. Will you return to singing?
Ricki Lake 46:48
Oh my gosh. Well, I think that bubble has burst. Simon Cowell told me when I was on his show, the celebrity X factor in the UK right before the pandemic, I lived in London. And he told me I sounded like a rehearsal. That and it’s okay, I’m okay with it. Because I probably did sound like that. But I basically went on that show they paid me a bucket full of money to be on Celebrity X Factor in London and I got kicked off the first week, which was what my plan was because I don’t I basically want X Factor I gotta be got to be in London for three months on their dime, living in the coolest neighborhood that got me this amazing apartment with my best friend and my dog. And I didn’t have to like try to win a recording contract for Simon Cowell. So the answer your question, I don’t think I’m gonna be singing much. But I yeah, I’m not as good as I used to be.
V Spehar 47:42
What’s your go to karaoke song?
Ricki Lake 47:45
Delta dawn. And then there’s Linda Ronstadt. You and I travel now that to the beat of a different drum. Okay, you know that one, right?
V Spehar 47:58
I don’t know what that is but just keep singing.
Ricki Lake 48:00
And we actually change the name to […] Kelly Clarkson as our thing. Yeah, no, I’m not a not a great singer.
V Spehar 48:10
You’re a great singer. Folks want to know did you get to keep any props or costumes?
Ricki Lake 48:14
I did wear my hairspray dress a woman to ostrich feathers to black and white. When I wore it on the view. They brought me on last Halloween and I wore it and I hadn’t even taken out of the bag for 20 something years. So I wore that. I have a little bracelet that is like a like a charm bracelet that I wear in the film with round my like very fat wrist. Like really tight on me. I have that. I’m trying to think of a lot of my dancing with the stars close. Yeah, but I’m not super like I’m not, I am but then I’m like, I don’t have room for it. You know. I do not have any of the Blazers from the Ricki Lake Show. No, I don’t I’m sorry. I wish I did now and they probably fit me now.
V Spehar 48:57
They’re back. It’s back.
Ricki Lake 48:59
They are back. They are with shoulder pads are back.
V Spehar 49:03
What’s one of your favorite spots in Baltimore?
Ricki Lake 49:06
Oh, the club charles is a bar that John took me to when I first got there. And I’ve been there many, many times and there’s bullet holes in the wall and it’s you see so many crazy misfits, fun loving misfits there. Let me think, Phil’s points. So fun. But I haven’t been back in a few years. I mean, it’s changed the inner harbors change so much. And you know, the best place in Baltimore is John Waters house. It was the best Christmas party.
V Spehar 49:33
Oh my gosh, Baltimore. Such a cool city man. It really is. It gets a bad rap. It’s an awesome place.
Ricki Lake 49:40
And it’s a character in all of his movies. Like you know, you think it’s a set you look you watch the movie and you think it’s except it’s no, it’s Baltimore.
V Spehar 49:47
The last question that honestly I had like 100 Some responses of people who wrote in to see to say like what they would ask Ricki and more than half of them Where are you happy? People want to know if you’re happy.
Ricki Lake 50:02
Oh my god, don’t I look happy? Yeah, I’m the happiest, and I’ve been a happy person for the most part my whole life. You know, I think there’s like people can that comes across, you know, I’m super grateful. And yeah, I make the best of I make lemonade just like just like Lemonada you know? And I’m the most content. I’m the most me like, I really love myself. I love the work I get to do. I love my partnership. I love my dog. My kids are great. Like, yeah, I’m knocking wood for Mica, but I’m absolutely just in the happiest place in my life. And I hope I get to do this for the rest of my days.
V Spehar 50:41
Also I wanted me to say thank you, thank you for the space you held for us for the last 40 years as an entertainer and an educator and advocate, but mostly our friend.
Ricki Lake 50:51
You are so welcome. It’s been my greatest joy, to bring people together, you know, and start conversations and make people feel like they’re not alone. You know, because I was that kid, you know that that felt like the outsider and the underdog. And so I think that’s part of why the show works so well is that people saw me in them, and knew that I care about them. I care about people. So it’s been a joy and it’s been easy.
V Spehar 51:23
Ricki, thank you so much for spending this time with me and even extra time. So I appreciate you.
Ricki Lake 51:27
My pleasure. Thank you so much V, congratulations.
V Spehar 51:35
Oh my god, you guys. I don’t know how I was able to keep my composure through all of that. And I’m going to tell you I did like start tearing up and then I was like, oh my god, choke it back. Be professional. This is Ricki Lake in front of you don’t blow it by crying through the whole thing. But this was truly a life highlight for me. So while I gather myself and my emotions, be sure to catch up on episodes of Raised by Ricki, wherever you are listening to this podcast right now. Okay, she’s on the same network. And stay tuned for new episodes dropping every Thursday. That’s the raised by Ricky podcast, I’ll be listening. You’ll be listening. We’re all doing this together. And don’t forget to tune into this Tuesday’s episode, where we’ll have the headlines that you care most about. And as always, I love to hear your good news. Let me know what’s going on with you. Leave me a voicemail at 612-293-8550 Subscribe to Lemonada premium on Apple podcasts and follow me at under the desk news. Take care and I will see you next time.
V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.