She Was Raised by Ricki … and Is Meeting Her at Last!
The best 90s self-care routine? For writer and podcast host Tracy Clayton, that was watching The Ricki Lake Show every day after school. The cultural critic talks about what makes the show so unforgettable, the importance of seeing Black representation on-screen, and how Ricki influenced her own career in media. Plus, Kalen tells us all about the best week of his life (two words: Queen Bey.)
Please note, Raised By Ricki contains mature themes and may not be appropriate for all listeners.
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Tracy Clayton, Ricki Lake, Kalen Allen
Ricki Lake 00:14
Hello, hello, hello. Welcome back to Raised by Ricki. I am Ricki Lake.
Kalen Allen 00:19
And I’m Kalen Allen.
Ricki Lake 00:20
And so much has happened. I have been just with bated breath wanting to talk to you. Okay. Since we’ve been in contact, you have gone.
Kalen Allen 00:31
I know where you’re going with this. I know where you go with this. But I want to know how was Berlin before we get into my life.
Ricki Lake 00:38
Berlin was great. London was great. Copenhagen was awesome. There was a lot that happened. I’d love to share but none of it none of it comes close to what has happened to you in the last week.
Kalen Allen 00:51
I can honestly say that this week has absolutely been the best week of my life. Crazy. Now, first and foremost, I went on a Disney cruise. I also went to Universal Studios, Disney Cruise. I was on the Disney wish we went to the Bahamas. And when I tell you it was the most amazing cruise I have ever taken. I did karaoke. I did scavenger hunts. I ate a whole bunch of food. I swam on the Aqua mouse, which is the slide I sat on the pool deck and watch Disney movies all day long. I was having the time of my life shortly. But right before I left for the cruise, I got a call. And the call was telling me that they wanted me to be the red carpet host for the wearable art gala that was taking place in LA on October 22nd. Now the wearable art gala is a fundraiser event that is hosted by Tina Knowles Lawson and Richard Lawson. Now Tina Knowles Lawson is the mother of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter. So the cruise ends on Friday, the 21st, right? I get to Orlando, I fly straight to LA, I get to LA probably around 6pm. And then, is the day of the event I go, I worked the red carpet. I already knew Beyonce was now going to walk that carpet. I knew that was not going to happen because she doesn’t like doing interviews and all that stuff. So I knew that that wasn’t going to happen. So the moment that the carpet was closed, I knew that that meant that the Queen was about to arrive, because everybody had already come through right. So now, you know this because we both lived like I used to live in LA you live there. It started to rain Ricki, okay? I’ve convinced that somebody on the team put a rain thing out there made it rain. Okay, because when it started raining, everybody started moving inside, right? So a friend of mine, Zach. So Zach is a YouTuber right? Now that did a reaction video when Beyonce first dropped lemonade. And that video was used on the formation World Tour. But he also has never met Beyonce. So Zach comes to the end of the carpet at the end. And he’s like, Kalen I do not care by any means necessary. Tonight, we are meeting Beyonce. And I get nervous. You know, Ricky, I am the person that just likes to like, sit in the back. Like I get really nervous. I don’t want to invade anybody’s space. I just want to be respectful. I just want people to be able to have their night you know all about treating celebrities, like human beings, right?
Ricki Lake 03:36
I’m glad you’re exploring. Yeah.
Kalen Allen 03:38
Yes. And so I’m like, I’m like that. No, just leave her alone. Listen to it. Okay, so we go inside, right? So as I’m walking towards my table, I see Julius, Julius is Beyonce. his bodyguard, right has been her bodyguard for years. Everybody knows he’s a tall, Black, bald man. And in front, I see Beyonce making her way through the crowd. So I run back to Zach, and I say bitch, she’s here. Right? So that jumps up and just starts bolting towards her table. And I’m like, Zach, no, stop. Do not do this. Do not go I’m getting so nervous. So I’m like, okay, do you go back to the table? Do you go back table? Do you just follow Zach, do you follow Zach? And so I say okay, just follow the stand a little bit behind that way. If something bad happens, you could turn around and abort. Okay. So I’ll follow that up there. And then we get right next to Julius now. Now we’re watching Julius. He is telling people no pictures. He is stopping people he was patrolling. Okay. I say hi, Julius. He says hi, how are you? He doesn’t stop us. He doesn’t stop us. That was how I knew we had permission to approach so me and Zach walk up to her, her back is to us. She turns around, and she says oh my gosh, I’m so excited to meet both of you finally. And she gives us both hugs. She says she is so proud of us. And she is just so happy that we support her and we are down for her and exactly like, can we get a picture? And she says yes, once I sit down and get settled in my photographer can take the picture, and I’ll make sure it comes to you. And I knew she said that, because if we would have taken like a selfie picture..
Ricki Lake 05:25
Everyone would want one. Everyone’s lining up.
Kalen Allen 05:29
So that was completely answer. But let me just say, I have to say this. Because people were like, what did you freak out? Did you cry? And I’ve always said that I would never do that. It was always important to me that when I met Beyonce that I was composed because I didn’t want to scare her. I did not want her to think that I was a crazed fan. I wanted her to feel comfortable. And I can honestly say that when we met Beyonce, we did not get celebrity Beyonce. We did not get media train Beyonce. She talked to us like we were long lost friends. It was a whole different perspective that I couldn’t have imagined to be able to experience from her. I mean, she hugged me twice.
Ricki Lake 06:14
How did she smell?
Kalen Allen 06:16
I don’t even remember, I blacked out for a lot of I spent a lot of time trying to write the notes, trying to remember stuff, seeing if it would jog my memory. But it was just the most personable and just warming connection, the fact that she genuinely knew us. Oh my God, then, but this is really where it gets really crazy. So you know, I had to be back in New York. So the program was supposed to end at 10 o’clock, right? And it didn’t it was running over. So it didn’t had a flight at midnight. And when I was boarding my plane, I got a text from Zach. Talking about I got my pitch. Oh, my God, I said, you’ve got to be kidding me. He said that after the program was over, he walked back up there. And she said, oh, I was gonna have Julius come get Shaw. And it says, Come with me, and ciao. Apparently Blue Ivy took the picture. And I’m just sitting on it. And I’m like, on the plane, like, I cannot believe this. I said, I said that. I said how did I win and losing? Win and losing the same damn night? Oh, my gosh. But I will say I will say that. I know that that won’t be the last time. Oh, my goodness. But I have just been, you know, I got so emotional yesterday. And I wrote a tweet about it. Because I remember being 10 years old, and being at my summer camp, and being just me and like getting the straight boys to like be the background dancers and we were kids, and performing crazy and love and like not being afraid of what people were going to say, and not caring about the judgment. And I have just been on cloud nine.
Ricki Lake 08:00
Ah, I could not be happier for you. And I’m so glad she exceeded your expectations.
Kalen Allen 08:07
Oh my god, what a time.
Ricki Lake 08:08
I could not be happier. No one deserves it more than you do. Now, I want to segue into our show today because we have someone really fantastic Tracy Clayton. And she isn’t her own podcast. And she’s a writer. And she hosted another round strong black legends going through it and back issue. And she’s also a pop culture expert. And I wanted to really talk to her. And you did too about just her perspective on the nostalgia that’s surrounding my old show.
Kalen Allen 08:09
Well, I think what’s also great about Tracy is that she says that you are one of her biggest, like, indirect mentors.
Ricki Lake 08:46
You know, I was so young when I hosted it. And I clearly have my own experience. But I wanted to understand the perspective of someone who like her. She watched it after school and talked about it with all of her friends. You know?
Kalen Allen 08:59
And I know that in her work. She’s also been very critical about things. So I’m excited to have that perspective as well to really get that voice in there. It always can’t be rainbows and sprinkle.
Ricki Lake 09:11
No, it can’t. No, it can’t. Well, let’s get into it.
Kalen Allen 09:14
Oh, let’s hit a doorbell.
Ricki Lake 09:16
Oh, I hear something.
Ricki Lake 09:24
Tracy Clayton, thank you so much for being here to talk to us. I know how busy you are. And I appreciate you taking time to sort of break down. What was the Ricki Lake Show?
Tracy Clayton 09:34
I would have canceled anything on my schedule today to sit and talk to Ricki V Lake. Are you kidding me? I can’t believe that I’m here. This is so exciting. Thank you.
Ricki Lake 09:45
How old were you when the show came on your radar.
Tracy Clayton 09:48
I felt like I was there from the very first episode. So in 93, I was 11 years old. That’s also the year that my very first niece was born which is I linked you two together but has a bit like, it’s how I remember what year she was born, how I remember when your show started, is her name, Ricki, it’s not. But they were like, no, have your own kid and then I it was like fine. But yes, I’m 11 years old in middle school. And this has been Louisville, Kentucky. And as a kid, I was really, really anxious, right as I was like, I’m not anxious now. I’ve been anxious, like my whole entire life. And so when you’re a kid, like schools already a lot, but when you’re a kid with like, undiagnosed anxiety disorder, it’s just like surviving every day, you know, it’s just like, oh my gosh, anything could happen. And so what I would do is I would set my VCR shout out to VCR.
Ricki Lake 10:43
Our friend over here, Kalen’s learning what a VCR is, he’s a youngin, I don’t mean to like, talk down to you at all. Kalen. But he was born in 1996. Okay?
Kalen Allen 10:55
I have a VCR, that’s the same year, Toy Story came out.
Tracy Clayton 11:01
Wow. I had to one explain to a coworker of mine how a pager worked. So I would set my VCR to record the Ricki Lake Show. And immediately after that was a Jimmy Jones Show. And the very first thing I would do and I came home, I would take a deep breath, because I’m just like, yes, I made it again, I survived, then I would go get a snack. I would go sit my behind right in front of my TV, like right on the floor, and just start seeing what I missed out on the show that day. And it was just like, the best self-care routine. I think, like it was definitely like I had to, I couldn’t miss it. I couldn’t miss the show.
Ricki Lake 11:42
But why? What was it about?
Tracy Clayton 11:44
I think it was a few things. For one, it was so entertaining, right? So I’m 11 and I’m seeing all of these like grown-ups like you know, like 2021-22. And in my head, I’m just like, oh my gosh, this is what grown-ups talk about when we’re not in the room. You know what I mean? And I also had this idea. So kids don’t know shit, right? So a thing that I thought was that at some point, like as you get older you dislike become a whole different, like, you just look different somehow, like your features change, your interest and all that stuff change. And so I would watch young Black people on this show and wonder, like, I wonder if this is the type of person that I’m going to, like, grow into and become you know, am I going to be the lab girl who will do whatever for her man and let him talk to her how crazy am I going to be the person who’s just like, not going to take any shit, you know? And it really helps me figure out you know, what my options were? Because the other places that I found myself represented on TV didn’t really give me a whole lot of choice. You know?
Ricki Lake 12:43
Well, Friends was on, Friends launched the TV series Friends, which of course, yeah, weren’t represented. No, it was the year after I mean, but because I’m not Black when I for the run of the show. I mean, people refer to me as a real home girl.
Tracy Clayton 12:57
Yeah, no, it was it was definitely a black show, in my opinion. Like I knew that the house was not Black. But I mean, like it just […] I have no idea. I honestly think that is because you spoke to your guests as if they were humans. And it didn’t feel like exploitive in the way that like, everybody knows that Jerry Springer was a shit show. And the purpose is to bring people of a very specified demographic, you know, usually like poor people, usually people ostracize. And in the margins, either because of their sexuality, or their race, or you know, their income, and like the point is to bring them on the show and humiliate them, you know? And that was best represented for me, when your response to whoever was on stage was different from the audience response. Because like, this is also the era where like, fat shaming is fine. And a lot of people just, you know, didn’t believe in homosexuality. And so when the crowd would act and respond in ways that affirm those sorts of thoughts, you would always be like, no, now, we don’t have to do all that. Let’s remember to be kind, let’s remember to be polite. And I didn’t see that anywhere else. I didn’t see anyone like interject, especially when the audience is like having a good time. And I was just like, wow, this is important to the host that these people are treated like people and I really do think that’s the difference.
Ricki Lake 14:35
Yeah. Okay, kids, we need to take a quick break but we’re gonna be right back. You know, Tracy, I never even thought about that. I never really stopped to think that I was reacting to those kinds of what’s the word stereotypes and defending the marginalized. I didn’t think of it as like being different or being innovative at that time.
Tracy Clayton 15:11
Yeah. And I mean, I think that was rare to see, then it’s rare to see Now honestly, depending on where you look, and it really meant something to me. And I didn’t have the language then. But it meant something to me that this was happening in a roomful of people who basically looks like me, right? Because, you know, like, when the audience would cheer, because something homophobic would say, that was the norm in my society, not in my household, you know, I mean, like, I was raised by amazing people, tender people who just didn’t think that way. But I was used to Black folks thinking that way, and to see somebody be like, you know, what, hey, like, Let’s relax. Let’s chill out. I was just like, whoa, whoa.
Kalen Allen 15:49
I was gonna ask. So you talk about, you know, you having anxiety. And really, it seems as though the show was a form of escapism for you. So especially being able to see yourself in almost in a way trying to find your identity within the show. How did that then translate to your everyday life?
Tracy Clayton 16:08
That’s a good question. Well, I think that as a middle schooler, right, as you’re growing, and as you’re learning to become a human, kind of, you know, you’re learning how to present yourself and how to walk down the street, and how to dress and how to do all these other things. I think that influence was definitely there. Because I thought everybody on the show was so cool. I mean, until they were like, horrible, and like cheating on everybody with everybody else, of course. But I think there was something about the show being set in New York City, like I had never been there before. And I was just like, you know, like this is the cool stuff that I should like, be aspiring to, you know, like, it’s cool. Like, everybody’s just like in Tommy Hilfiger coats and nautical coats, and like, you know, like, the standard stuff. But this just seemed so much more like trendy and chic. And I enjoyed it so much. And I was like, I want to be somebody that people enjoy. So I definitely had like, as big an impact, I would say, it’s like music videos.
Kalen Allen 17:03
But the reason why I ask is that because I’m from Kansas City. So I know what it’s like, you know, to grow up in. I grew up in Wyandotte County, which is a predominantly Black neighborhood. It’s a place that Janelle Monae is from and everything. And, but okay, but I mean.
Ricki Lake 17:20
I know who she is.
Kalen Allen 17:25
I also when I saw Black New Yorkers, it was different. Because there was like this independence, there was like this confidence, then you didn’t see anywhere else. Yeah, because as a kid, I always wanted to move to New York, just watching TV and seeing Black New Yorkers on TV and being like, wow, they are so strong and powerful. So did that also play a role in how you grew up?
Tracy Clayton 17:51
So it definitely resonates with me the difference is, I never wanted to move to New York. I didn’t want to visit New York. I was like this; it looks big and terrifying and scary as people everywhere. Obviously, the people in the audience are rowdy, you know, like, what, like, if I went there, I would die. But I still want it to be those people. The New York style of Blackness, I think, is one that has always really permeated pop culture, like in music, you know, like, Jay Z, Wu Tang, like all the really, really big acts that came out of New York City, Ricky when you mentioned friends and made me think of Living Single, which is also one of my favorite shows, and they completely just ripped off living single turn it into friends. Queen Latifah and I had a conversation about, I interviewed and she was just like, no, they stole it. They just stole the whole thing. But, um, the Ricki Lake Show, like, I got to see like those Black New York prototypes that I saw on living single, and like another music videos, and I got to see that, like, those are based on actual people that exist. And so it was sort of like, just like a window. It was like a mini reality show, you know, like, these people are bringing, like, their actual lives and the actual drama, which is what we watch reality shows for. And it was literally like, Oh, my God, I can’t believe that, like this happens to some people, like the all of the thing is people going through and like, I’m eight months pregnant, and I’ll dress however I want it’s like, what, what in the world.
Ricki Lake 19:20
And those people were for the most part celebrated, right? I mean, obviously, people were absurd, and many sounded stupid and really awful things. But at the end of the day, it felt the tone of it was like a party, right?
Tracy Clayton 19:34
Yes. It was like a party. And I think with the guests on the show, it just really felt like, you know, when they showed up, this is who they were this the same person that they were on the show, and when they leave the stage, that’s who they’re going to remain, you know, so I definitely see the link there.
Ricki Lake 19:49
Is there any clip that stands out to you like, is there any moment that really was like, I mean, you remember the wig snatch right?
Tracy Clayton 19:56
That’s the moment I was gonna mention. I remember that particular story so well like I remember where the people were sitting on the stage.
Ricki Lake 20:08
Because it wasn’t just grabbing a wig. It was grabbing the wig. And then there was the wig cap underneath and then her hair was shockingly a different color and texture than the wig. And it was like, it was so taboo, like the fact that that woman pull that off and if I remember correctly, she was deserving, maybe?
Tracy Clayton 20:29
Yeah, absolutely. She needed to be kicked to the curb.
Ricki Lake 20:33
Lose the zero. Get yourself a hero.
Tracy Clayton 20:37
My favorite, my favorite. But yeah, so the woman who got our wigs snatched, was there because she had been sleeping with the husband boyfriend. Somebody snatching. And I remember the woman whose wig I snatches me like real unapologetic about it, you know, like, I’m not worried about their relationship. That’s his business, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And you’re so right about how shocking it was. Because I remember recently, in the last couple of years, I think what was that show with them? Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder. That was the scene that like pe
Kalen Allen 21:33
That’s in the first season. And she takes the wig off. It didn’t take the makeup off. It didn’t when the husband cuz she says, why is your dick on a dead girl’s phone? Oh, yeah, cuz that’s because she found out that her husband was sleeping with the student that was dead.
Ricki Lake 21:50
Oh, you’re talking about the show? Details of my old show?
Tracy Clayton 21:56
I don’t remember that episode.
Ricki Lake 22:00
That’s what I would have thought I would remember.
Tracy Clayton 22:07
In talking about, like the type of authenticity that you could find on your show that you didn’t get on other shows. Like, I just remember the drama of it so explicitly because that woman knew number one that she had on a wig. And she knew number two, what she looked like under the wig. And she knew number three, what it would mean for her to remove that wig in the fashion that she did. And it was just like, Yes, this is something that Black women would do if this was happening like on their couch. They’re confronting each other about whose magnitudes and it just happened in slow motion. And then she just said and just looked at her as the crowd is going like crazy. While I felt like he had to feel so powerful in that moment.
Kalen Allen 22:44
The name of that episode is I’ve slept with your man and I’ll do it again and again.
Tracy Clayton 22:48
Bam. And that’s exactly how she felt.
Ricki Lake 22:54
Okay, folks, got to take a quick break, but we’re going to be right back in a jiffy. And we’re back. What’s another moment that jumps out for you, Tracy?
Kalen Allen 23:19
Do you remember Fred Phelps?
Tracy Clayton 23:21
Yes, I was actually gonna bring that up. Not quite as fun as the wig snatch match episode. I remember there was this obsession for a while on daytime TV talk shows like for a good little while of just like having like really racist pieces of shit on. They did it once on Oprah. And Oprah was like, that’s it? Never again in this way. Do you remember that?
Kalen Allen 23:48
I do remember that.
Ricki Lake 23:49
I do. I do remember that too.
Tracy Clayton 23:52
And I think of your show my […]. Yes, exactly. Exactly. And I’m so impressed with it to this day. Because you know, like, you got your Jerry Springer’s who you know, a Christmas with the clan and it’s like a full turkey dinner on the table because they know they’re gonna like have a flu fight and shit like that. Like that’s not productive. That’s it’s buffoonery. And it’s what it was supposed to be. I remember Donohue and Montel did it often not to that degree, but still like the conversations just weren’t conducive to anything but like giving these assholes a platform. And I remember during the Fred Phelps episode, just feeling like disgusting about the stuff that he was saying. And I remember, Ricki, you were like, okay, this is enough. We’re not going to continue on with this conversation. Because like, it just hit a point where it’s unhealthy. It’s unhelpful.
Tracy Clayton 24:45
He didn’t deserve to be there. He didn’t deserve the microphone. And that’s not something that anyone other than Oprah would have done. I don’t think because it was disgusting.
Ricki Lake 25:32
I was terrified because I’d never been disrespected like that. And he was saying things that I did not understand. And I’m not someone that’s religious. I don’t understand that all the things he was thrown at me from the Bible. And I just I threw them out, you know? And I was like, Yeah, I was 25. I don’t have a journalism degree. I didn’t finish college. I don’t know from church. And yet, I just had to like, just take the moment and just say, I’m not going to stand for this kind of talk. But I’m glad I was able to hold my own with him. And I think it did have a reverberation effect. You know, it did get a lot of you know, I mean, I certainly didn’t do Phil Donahue interview. Mine was more sort of the girl next door. But yeah, I think the point was to, to reflect what is out there. And this guy was doing a lot of damage at the time, he was going to AIDS victims funerals and pick it.
Kalen Allen 26:23
This was in Kansas.
Ricki Lake 26:28
It was definitely a teaching moment for me because you know, I just sort of stepped into my power with I was comfortable or not.
Tracy Clayton 26:36
Yeah, well, me as an interviewer like, I mean, of course, as I’m watching you interview, I was terrified of speaking to people, so I never would have thought that I would have gotten into like a podcasting role at all. Oh my gosh, but I’ll tell you what, when I did, guess who I studied. Because in that moment, that moment always stood out to me as a moment that really showed me like, you don’t have to put up with any of this bullshit. You know, like when somebody is like in your space, being disrespectful, being poisonous and toxic. You know? Like, even if you only let 411 five one, I’m not sure how you are. But like, you know, you could be the smartest three.
Ricki Lake 27:14
Thank you very much.
Tracy Clayton 27:16
My apology. My sincerest apologies. I’m five, three and a quarter. And if you leave off that quarter, we’re gonna fight.
Ricki Lake 27:23
I get it. Yeah. Well, do you know that I have zero real training? Like zero? Like I really, honestly, when they gave me the job. I’m not kidding. Because I was a big fan of Oprah. Obviously, I’d been on her show for hairspray. I’d met her she was my idol. And I would simply in my head, say, Okay, what would Oprah ask what would Oprah say? Yeah, like I really just wanted to tap into just the way she was with people. And then when I started to hit my groove, and we started doing the test shows, and it was working really well. It just, it became instinctual. It became like, it was just listening, being a good listener being curious. Yeah, being interested in people being a bit of a gossip being very, like, open about my life. And my, you know, I just lost a lot of weight. So I think I was relatable to people. I was non-threatening, you know, it just worked, you know?
Tracy Clayton 28:12
Yeah. I know that it can be intimidating to be in a room full of like, people, first of all, but like, the format of those shows back then is very specific. Because like, not only is there like, a listening audience is a talking audience. It’s a rowdy audience, you know, how did you learn how to deal with and navigate because you kept them in control.
Ricki Lake 28:36
I didn’t wear an earpiece. So I was not in touch with control room. I know. I know. That’s sort of my like the thing I want people to know, because it was distracting for me, out of the angry it just it pulled me out. And it made me what did they what are they telling you to say? Or do my friends and the people in my life would say that I have been given this gene where I have no doubt there’s no like, I don’t carry that doubt in me. And in this case, they gave me this big show. They think I can do it. I mean, same thing with John Waters hire me for hairspray. Was I a great dancer? I faked it like I was he thinks I can do it. I can be Tracy, you know. And so it’s just that pattern of just kind of jumping in feet first and trusting that it’s all happening the way it’s supposed to. I was not nervous during the talk show like I was not and it just kind of.
Tracy Clayton 29:24
That blows my mind.
Kalen Allen 29:27
Well, I think it’s just like we’ve talked on many interviews about how like being a talk show host isn’t something that you can teach. You know, it’s not something that you can go to school for that you can go to school for journalism, you can do all that. But there is something that like for instance, like working at Ellen and watching Ellen do the show every day, there was just a way that she was able to control the room and bring the audience in that I don’t think everybody has that that gift. You know, I think you have to be born with that and I think also, I think what actually helped you breaky was the fact that you didn’t know anything.
Ricki Lake 30:04
I still don’t know anything. Seriously, I feel like I’m such a work in progress still. And maybe that’s part of the appeal is that, you know, Oprah always looked like she had it figured out, you know, you look to her for the advice, and you want it to, like, grow up and be like her. And I feel like with me, they look to me, like, oh, she’s trying to figure it out to just like us, you know, and I wasn’t judgmental, I tried not to be. And I really was, like, sort of every woman in a lot of ways. I mean, obviously, I ended up making a lot of money, and the burden of the financial situation was lifted for me. And that was a big, big deal. But I think everyone sort of saw a little bit of themselves in me, you know?
Kalen Allen 30:45
Also, in your age probably played a lot in that as well. You know, and because like, yes, hairspray was successful, and beak, you were still so early in your career, to where Hollywood I don’t think even got a chance to change you or to modify who you were as a human. So you were able to just come at it from a more authentic and just real way, you know, like, I don’t think people understand like, social media, it has changed the way celebrity works. So like, people get to see you mess up now. And then you don’t get any time to really, you know, cultivate your craft, and people already want to give up on you. And you just like I’m still figuring it out, you know, but I wanted to say that because Tracy, I actually want to talk about your career. So can you talk about the impact of watching shows like The Ricki Lake Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show, and all those shows, and how that influenced you for your career today?
Tracy Clayton 31:41
Well, when I, when I started in podcasting, it was just like, I didn’t think it was gonna like last at all. Like, it was a very experimental thing that happened while I was working at BuzzFeed. I was like, Okay, well, I guess I better like Google and see how to interview somebody. And somebody was like, well, just think of who your favorite interviewers are. And I was just like, I just told you, I don’t listen to podcasts. And they’re like, but interviews happen all the time, all around you. Like think about, like the talk shows and stuff that you were into. First thing I thought of was Oprah. Second show was the Ricki Lake Show. And I took very important pieces from both of your interview styles. And the one that has proven the most effective for me is, be kind and be empathetic to the person that you’re interviewing. Don’t be afraid to ask them about, like their feelings, you know, like, just make them safe, make them feel safe, make them uncomfortable, let them know that you are listening. Number one, like as you said, like being a good interviewer. You have to be a good listener. And a lot of times people are like, you know, how do you get people to open up so much. And I’m just like, I am nice to them, you know, like, not just nice, but like kind you know, and I let them know that like I have an emotional intelligence dislike you know, if you say something and you feel like you misspeak is okay, I’m not gonna ship out, you know, like, I’m not gonna shut you down and like judge you for anything.
Ricki Lake 33:01
Have you met Oprah?
Tracy Clayton 33:03
Oh my gosh, I wish, no, I’ve been sending emails and she just won’t respond.
Ricki Lake 33:10
We ever heart like we’re trying to get her on this show. But I don’t think it will happen. I’m a realist, but we love her anyway.
Tracy Clayton 33:21
I mean, I’m sure she is if she’s not busy work, and she’s busy on the farm and what Hawaii where she’s like.
Ricki Lake 33:28
She was super kind to me. In the beginning. When I was starting the show before we went on the air. before we started taping, she invited me she was kind of tuned by myself and my executive producer, Gail Steinberg, to Chicago to their studios. I got to sit and watch the behind the scenes. I sat in their production meeting. I saw her office. I took pictures there. Watch the show. It was very generous and kind of her to do that.
Tracy Clayton 33:52
I’ve been trying really hard not to turn this into an interview. I’m trying to think of a nice way to ask for like some gossip.
Ricki Lake 34:04
I don’t remember a lot. Oh, my God, the first season I fell madly in love with my first husband. And you know, met him. I went on the air September 13th, 1993, the same day as Conan O’Brien. And on Halloween of that year, I met that time, the love of my life. I was 25 years old. And we, you know, got engaged the first week and the whole thing. And I remember bringing him to the studio, come, come sit in the back and watch me do my work. It was one of the things and he came and sat and I was so distracted the entire show. Afterwards, they like sat me down in my office and they reamed me. They were so pissed at me and they banned him. He was banned for like a couple of months. You know, that’s what I was reminded that I’m like basically talent for hire. I’m 25 years old and I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. So yeah, that was a real wake up call. Did I answer your question, Tracy?
Tracy Clayton 34:55
I’m enthralled. I don’t remember what the question was Okay, okay, here’s a question because your show is still part of my self-care routine to this day. So sometimes I’ll just be like, You know what, I just have to turn off my brain. I’m gonna watch some Ricki Lake shows. And there’s one episode I can’t tell you who was on it. I can’t tell you what the topic was. But I just got the feeling I was like Rick is being kind of flirty with this particular celeb.
Ricki Lake 35:51
Back then, and still today. I think I haven’t seen him in a long time. He is sexy. Something about him. And I would get distracted. Like I you know, I don’t get starstruck. It’s certainly like, at that point in my career. I used to get really, really starstruck when I was doing my own show. I didn’t really, but he was definitely one I talked to my husband about when I went home, you know?
Kalen Allen 36:23
I had a question. So you talked about..
Ricki Lake 36:27
I want him on the show. There you go. Talk about our crush.
Kalen Allen 36:33
You talk about, you know, representation. On the show. Were there any moments that you watched, especially once you got older that you look back? You know, even to this day, there are things that I look back at that I was obsessed with growing up. And I’d be like, Ooh, that was kind of problematic. You know what I mean? Were there any moments that you looked back at an episode was like, Ooh, that’s really, you know, sitting on the line?
Tracy Clayton 36:56
That’s a good question. I feel like there must have been, right, because it’s you can’t exist doing media back then. And not have done something problematic because, you know, that’s a sign of societal growth. When something doesn’t age well, it’s good. You know, it means that like things that should not have happened to no longer happen. I’m certain there were some but I also know that like in each of those moments, where I felt kind of like, ah, I don’t know, like, the balance was there. Because again, you know, our esteemed host is just being very present and thoughtful and kind and like correcting things when things needed to be corrected. And again, I feel like there’s a difference as like from I’m not trying to start No, she did start no beef, but like Ricki versus Jenny Jones, right. Jenny Jones leans into the messiness, she, she had this comedian all named Ruth Jude, right?
Ricki Lake 37:51
Oh, I know that guy. I know him. I know him personally. Yeah, he’s a writer. He’s a writer. He’s really smart. But he’s very provocative. What he was like, what his persona was, like on that show.
Tracy Clayton 38:04
He was terrible. I mean, his name was rude, dude. Yeah, his only job is to come in, like, insult the guests, as horribly as he could, you know, and like Jenny never stepped in and was like, Okay, that’s a bit too far. And of course, she was a stand-up comedian as well. But like, that was the point. Humiliation was the point. And even when, like a show was, like, framed in a way that maybe didn’t age well, like the heart was still there, you know, like, you were there to like, correct. As the thing was going on. I don’t know if I’m making any sense.
Ricki Lake 38:32
You are giving me a lot of fucking credit, because I don’t I don’t see myself as doing that, like.
Tracy Clayton 38:36
I am telling you were so, are so good. Like, top three interviewer.
Ricki Lake 38:44
Thank you, you’re really making me feel so good today. And I you know, the reason we’re doing this show is to really look back on it. Because we think it’s important to kind of go back and during that time, that time in the 90s. Do you agree that it’s important to reflect on the old show in this way?
Tracy Clayton 39:00
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that the importance of nostalgia, right, of being able to look back at the things that you really loved culturally, as a kid, you get to look back at them with wisdom that you didn’t have been, you know, and also as you’re making a thing, or as a thing is happening, you know, like, you often don’t get the chance to sit and ponder it significance. Because, you know, for a season, you haven’t been around long enough to really like be significant in the ways that we’re talking about now. Also, a lot of the things that like capital J journalism, like the New York Times, and whatever their publications exist or existed, they tend to gravitate toward quote, unquote, highbrow art, you know, and it’s just like, who decides what the important things are to think about and talk about and dissect? And I think that daytime TV is not one of the things that gets enough respect these days and like the discord Have pop culture and things that really changed and shaped society and has contributed to who we are now and the people that we’ve become and like the other forms of media that has given birth to like the real housewives and reality TV, like, with those exists today had shows like Ricki Lake not existed? We don’t know. But maybe not. And it’s worth having those conversations. Yeah, you know, because they’re fascinating. They’re so fascinating. What’s something that you learned about yourself during the show, I’m very into.
Ricki Lake 40:30
Oh, my gosh, what I learned, I mean, the whole trajectory of the show, you know, 11 years from the time I was 23, really, the pilot was so was 12 years, 23 to 35. I, you know, fell in love, got married, had two children. And in the end, last year of the show, I got divorced, you know. So, I mean, and I was in therapy, during the time my executive producer put me in therapy, when I started the job, because he wanted me to be more in touch, I’d never been in therapy before. And I certainly didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. But it was a way for me to kind of learn about myself. And it was very smart of him. Because I was so young, I had not had that much life experience. And so who am I to be the barometer or the mediator in this kind of arena, you know, and I learned so much about myself, you know, I really came into my own and, you know, now I make these documentaries that I’m super proud of, and that have really made an impact in on a smaller scale than my show, but deeply, deeply meaningful to me. And I feel like doing the show helped me to find my real voice, you know, and, and to be able to stand up for what I believe in, and that has come as I’ve gotten older, you know, back then I was I was very malleable. I was a people pleaser, I still am in some ways, but I enjoy the show. I just, I wanted to do a good job. I wanted people to like me, and trust me and relate to me. And I you know, I think all that happened, you know, and it’s just really fun to talk to you about the show, because I haven’t really reflected, you know, my life has gone on. I’ve you know, I’ve had a lot of life experience since. And it’s just been really interesting to kind of look at how impactful it was good and bad, you know, on society on a Black kid in Kentucky, a little girl, you know, and it just, it’s really meaningful. So I thank you so much for talking to us.
Kalen Allen 42:18
Yes. Thank you, Tracy
Tracy Clayton 42:19
Literally anytime. I can’t, I cannot say those words, enough.
Kalen Allen 42:28
Okay, Ms. Ricki Lake, because we know that you are the humble queen. But I must ask, does it ever register to you? What you meant to people? Because clearly, Tracy has sung your praises, and gives you so much credit, and gives you your flowers? Do you even think about it?
Ricki Lake 42:51
I mean, I do now. I mean, I really do now, and it was just really touching to hear what it was like for her and what she got from the show. And that, you know, at the time, I must have just been in this just this bubble. And I didn’t stop and reflect and have real kind of reverence for what we were doing and how it was impacting so many people like to know that to success is one thing, but to have like that one on one kind of connection with someone who can really take you back and have specific, you know, palpable experiences that they share with you. No, I mean, I know I’ve never really considered that. And so that’s one of the really fun parts for me of doing this project with you is it’s really cathartic. You know, the show was really important, you know, in a lot of ways to a lot of people and it’s great to reflect on that. And I’m grateful for Tracy to share it to being here and sharing your story.
Kalen Allen 43:50
Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen.
Ricki Lake 43:53
This was really, this was a good one. Thank you so much for listening. Please, if you’re inspired by what you’re hearing from us, please consider subscribing and rating and reviewing. It helps us stay doing what we’re doing, right?
Kalen Allen 44:10
Hey, if you want more rates by Ricki, just subscribe to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcast. Every other week. She answers listener questions, subscribe now.
Raised by Ricki with Ricki Lake and Kalen Allen is a Lemonada Media Original. This show is produced by Claire Jones and Nancy Rosenbaum. Our associate producer is Tiffany Buoy. Our senior director of new content is Rachel Neill, VP of weekly production is Steve Nelson and our executive producers Stephanie Wittels Wachs, Jessica Cordova Kramer and DeRay McKesson, and the show is mixed by Johnny Vince Evans. Music is written and produced by Jellybean Benitez, Jason Peralta and Jay Coos for Jelly Bean Productions.