Sparkplug Kelly Ripa Is Airing All Of Her Laundry — The Good, The Bad, And The Dirty — In First Book “Live Wire”

Kelly Ripa
JACKET: Dolce & Gabbana
GOWN: Lanvin
HEELS: Jimmy Choo
RING: Cartier

Photo Credit: Miller Mobley

BY LAURA SCHREFFLER
PHOTOGRAPHY MILLER MOBLEY
STYLING AUDREY SLATER
HAIR RYAN TRYGSTAD
MAKEUP KRISTOFER BUCKLE
SHOT ON LOCATION AT THE CARLYLE HOTEL, NYC

Kelly Ripa
DRESS: Jason Wu
PUMPS: Prada
RING: Cartier

Photo Credit: Miller Mobley

THERE AREN’T MANY PEOPLE WHO WOULD a) admit to passing out during sex; b) to waking up in the emergency room inexplicably wearing a 1980s-style French-cut leotard and red “fuck me” Manolo Blahniks, as dressed by their husband; c) publicly airing said encounter in a collection of true short stories (aka a memoir); and d) making the moment not only funny, but relatable, but then, no one else on earth is Kelly Ripa, a badass B who, at 51 years old, has finally learned and inured to the rigors of not giving a shit.

This potentially traumatic yet hilariously written tale is just one of the vignettes in the Live with Kelly and Ryan host’s upcoming first release, Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories, available on September 27 from Dey Street Books. And now, because I know you need to hear the rest (I sure did), here it is, the crux of a chapter entitled “Don’t Let Your Husband Pick Your Death Clothes.” The year was 1997, pre-morning show, and Ripa was recently married to her then All My Children co-star Mark Consuelos and a new mom to six-month old Michael when she passed out while doing it. But not, like, because it was so good or anything (although duh, of course it was — and she says as much). When she came to, appalled to find herself wearing aforementioned articles of clothing plus a pair of her husband’s oversized Juventus warm-up pants with side snaps (why Mark, why?), there was more to come: The reason for said swoon was a twin pair of ovarian cysts, which were apparently more alarming to Mark, because he, too, almost had a case of the vapors and nearly fainted on the hospital room floor.

She writes: “My eyes shift between the fuzzy images on the screen, the remnants of my ovarian tormentor, and Mark happily snacking away. Sex can be so traumatic I think, and yet one of us is completely undaunted. There he is, happily munching on the saltines now and ordering a second apple juice. Mark could be at a movie, or a spa. Instead, I’m flat on my back wondering when the other two cysts will burst.” She adds, “Also, here is my husband, who is, dare I say, stylish, well-dressed at all times, and yet he dressed me like a dime store prostitute in my time of need. It’s still baffling to me to this day that this is the best costume for the day that he could find for me, to the point where, when I was on the stretcher, I thought I was dreaming; I was having a nightmare. I didn’t realize I had come to.”

See what I mean? She’s hilarious. It’s the Kelly Ripa we know and have loved since she first appeared as Regis Philbin’s co-host in 2001, the one who has won over America with her smile, sprightliness, and relatability. What’s more, with Ripa, what you see is what you get. She’s never had much of a filter, to be honest, but now she’s finally comfortable sharing some of her most private good, bad, and ugly behind-the-scenes moments with the masses instead of the tiniest of glimpses into her everyday life.

Well, okay, not her everyday life, per se. Her favorite chapter — “The Good News: You Can’t Die From Embarrassment” — was a one-off situation that is most definitely not the norm for anyone, including herself. Ripa immediately calls herself out in an entirely self-deprecating way, referring to this chapter as one where she gets “even close to a glamorous and fancy schmancy name-droppy life.” And it involves her close encounter with celebrity crush Richard Gere, which is probably why it’s her favorite chapter. Because while the retelling isn’t the story she would have hoped for (she couldn’t help murmuring the words to “Up Where We Belong” from his film An Officer and a Gentleman in his face) the point is that it’s still a story, and it’s all hers.

The setting: Jimmy and Jane Buffet’s waterfront home to celebrate actress Anjelica Huston’s birthday when she found herself taking the last empty seat in the room — right next to Gere. So after some charmingly dorky attempts to ingratiate herself to the Pretty Woman actor, they both found themselves coming to the rescue of a fallen party guest — who swore up and down she hadn’t drunk anything or eaten anything bad (and whom they later learned had eaten an extremely potent pot brownie). She spent the next two months telling everyone and anyone on Long Island about how she and Richard Gere saved a woman’s life, embellishing and adding to the story every time. The kicker: Months later, they ran into each other at a different mutual friend’s party, when Ripa approached Gere saying, “Do you remember when we saved that woman’s life at Jane Buffet’s house during Anjelica’s birthday party?” There was a long pause, and Gere responded: “You were there?”

Now, Kelly tells me, “I was clearly the person that didn’t belong in that room, because you know that Mark was like, ‘You’re not bringing an autograph book to a party’ and I was like, ‘What if someone amazing is there?’ I’m not used to being around celebrities in the wild. In fact, I’m so unused to it that in my mind, I cast myself as Richard Gere’s co-star. To this day, I still revere Richard Gere. I don’t know that I would ever have the comfort level to approach him again; it was such a big moment in my mind. And that he couldn’t recall that I was even there tells you everything you need to know about my life. I’m always more impressed than everybody else.”

Ripa is more everything than everyone else. She’s a ball of energy from the second we start speaking, and as such, our conversation runs the gamut of topics from bad vacation hair to her poor use of the semicolon (her words, not mine) to, of course, her book itself — and why she decided to tell her stories now. If you guessed the pandemic was the impetus, you’d be right — but only in a very nonlinear way. During the lockdown days of Covid-19, she started posting bits of what she refers to as “crazy essays” to social media and simultaneously, sending “absolutely ridiculous” emails signed “Love, Ryan and his mom, Kelly’ where she took on the role of co-host Ryan Seacrest’s mother. But she had already been writing these tales down, putting pen to paper in a journal at the behest of pal Andy Cohen for the better part of two decades. And between a push from her publisher and her colleagues, Live Wire was born. So, dear readers, prepare yourself to get to know the real Kelly Ripa — wife, daughter, mother, talk show host to the stars, Jersey Girl, firecracker, and so many more epithets that they’d fill up a page. But no matter what hat she’s wearing, she’s funny as hell.

CHAPTER 2

Kelly Ripa
SKIRT: Dior
JACKET: Saint Laurent
TOP: Lanvin
HEELS: Saint Laurent
BRACELET: Tiffany & Co.
RING: Cartier

Photo Credit: Miller Mobley
WHEN KELLY AND I CHAT on July 5, she and Mark have just returned from a monumental trip out west — momentous in that it was the first trip the couple has taken in 25 years without their kids. “At first we were, ‘Wait, what will we possibly do?’ and then I realized we could do whatever we wanted! It was a revolutionary vacation,” she enthuses. That being said, there was one downside, in her opinion (though obviously not in my eyes). “Who knows what will come out of my mouth after a two-week vacation?”

Indeed. For starters, she tells me she’s already hard at work on book No. 2, which will kick off with how she tried to get out of her Live Wire book tour by pretending to have Covid-19. But then she actually caught it, which means wham, bam, thank you ma’am — she’s fresh out of promotion excuses. “I blew my Covid wad too soon, if you will,” she laments ruefully.

There’s another section she’ll definitely include, one where she’ll issue a warning to her family and friends in advance — especially her kids — as she did in Live Wire where she discussed doing it with their dad and then being wheeled through triage in head-to-toe Lycra.

“I will definitely include that time during the pandemic that I thought my husband got me pregnant,” she shares. [Which, as a sidebar, would mean a 19-year age gap between her youngest child and a newborn.] “I started taking pregnancy tests daily, but then Mark sort of gingerly said, ‘Could there be another reason why you’re not getting your period?’ and me saying, ‘What other reason could there possibly be?’ He really had to walk on eggshells here [by explaining to me that I was probably going through menopause].”

And he did a damn good job, because Kelly didn’t want to cut her husband for being the bearer of bad news. Instead, she was relieved. “I was really grateful that I was not going to have to explain to my kids [Michael, 25; Lola, 21; and Joaquin, 19] that they were about to meet their new sibling.”

The Consuelos clan is as tight as can be (what Ripa refers to as her “little tribe”) but, like most kids, the thought of their parents knocking boots could potentially make their brains implode. “My kids never want to think of us in any sort of intimate way whatsoever. That’s why in that one chapter, I was like, ‘If you are related to us in any way, I urge you to skip over this.’ If for some reason my kids feel the need to read the entire book — which, don’t get me wrong, I don’t suspect that they will — but if they did, I don’t want them to read that chapter because it would sicken them. No one wants to think of their parents being intimate.”

Though that chapter comes with a warning, her kids haven’t read the book yet. She did send them the chapter, “The Nest Is Clean,” about being an empty nester. “My daughter was like, ‘You can’t write any of that.’ I said, ‘Too late, it’s in the book.’ Conversely, my oldest son was very moved by it, and because he’s older, I think he really got it. My youngest son I don’t believe read it, but he told me he did. He’s dyslexic and I know he’s thinking, ‘Do you really want to give me more to read?’ I get it; I know reading takes a toll.”

While her kids may not have internalized her tales of life, love, and the whole damn thing, the one person who made sure to read absolutely every word was none other than her respective other. “It’s funny: Mark was my biggest champion in the whole process. He read it with the eye of not just a person reading it because they had to save their own marriage, but with the eye of a reader. He would recall things that he found pertinent, or relevant, or language that he didn’t understand.

“I wasn’t sure if I could even write — and I’m still extremely unconvinced — because I found the entire process to be overwhelming and exhausting, especially with the editing,” she admits. “Sitting with [my publisher], going through things she thought should come out, while I was like, ‘No, that needs to stay in.’ Just knowing that Mark was there through all of it, and very, very tolerant of me discussing our lives in the way that I did, thinking for sure that he would say, ‘You can’t put that in there.’ There was only one chapter that he told me I could never, ever put into that book, or any book, and I took it out. I respected him, I respected it, and I was like, ‘I hear you, even though it’s the best chapter. I’ll honor your request to take it out.’

Intrigued, I ask her if she can share anything at all about its content, and she does. “It was about a transition period in our marriage. It wasn’t the empty-nest transition, but an earlier one, and that’s all I can really say about it without him breaking down the door and somehow knowing I’m even discussing it.”

I say, “That’s a good man you have, Kelly. He didn’t mind you talking about passing out during sex, at least.”

She answers smartly, “Well, it was hardly his fault. Although, in the retelling, he [boasts that he was] such a cocksman that he made me pass out.”

Ripa says this fondly. She doesn’t mind his bragging because a) it’s true and b) she’s grateful for him — and appreciative that he’s nothing like her. “You have to have a yin and a yang, right? Mark is so quiet in the way he goes through his life, and yet he married a blowhorn, if you will. I am this open book who will even turn the pages for you if you don’t keep up, and yet he allowed me to share these intimate moments because frankly, I think he found them entertaining. At the end of the day, I don’t think he would still be in this marriage if he didn’t find me entertaining. For example, if we go out to dinner with a couple we don’t know very well, and he says, ‘Kelly, tell him the story of how we met,’ then I know he’s invested.” [Incidentally, the start of their romance is adorably and hilariously laid out in chapter “Scenes From a RealMarriage.” A sample: “Mark’s a funny guy … but that is not why I fell for him. Oh no. I knew I was in love with him from the time I saw his headshot.”

Ripa is endlessly complimentary about her husband, and the feeling is clearly mutual: He even made an appearance at The Carlyle Hotel during our photo shoot just to check on his girl. They are couples’ goals.

As such, keeping their relationship fresh is easy, in her opinion. “It’s all very black and white: We fight,” she says. “And I think that’s the key to a good marriage, because you fight when you’re passionate. If we stopped fighting, I’d be concerned. We’re fine here, because we still get into it.
“You know,” she adds, musing, “I was worried when we became empty nesters. It was one of the great turning points of our lives, and I thought to myself, Oh shit, we’re going to be that couple that it ends as soon as the kids are out of the house. I don’t know why one argument led me to believe that, but I do tend to have a flair for the dramatic. Plus, men and women argue differently. For him, a passing argument is no big deal, but for me, it’s like, ‘Well, I guess I have to call the divorce attorney.’ He’s like, ‘Um, what? Are you okay?’”

Momentary lapses in sanity aside, anyone who has ever seen her and Consuelos together get it. Some people just fit, like puzzle pieces, and they are those people. “Mark is the hottest man on earth,” she enthuses (see what I mean?), adding, “But also the most normal. First of all, he’s good at math, so there’s that, and second of all, he has no ego; neither one of us do. We’re literally two people pushing each other up the hill as opposed to one trying to climb up the other one to get up the hill. We’re a team.”

And they always will be — even if he doesn’t always remember to hang up his towel.

CHAPTER 3

Kelly Ripa
PAJAMA TOP & PANTS: Fendi

Photo Credit: Miller Mobley
“I’VE NEVER SLEPT WITH A 50-YEAR-OLD MAN. Actually, I suppose I will have by the time this book comes out. Wait, now that I think about it, by the time this book comes out, I’ll probably be sleeping with a man nearly in his mid-50s (52 is close enough). Mark, of course, has slept with a 50-year-old woman plenty of times. I’m assuming I’m the only 50-year-old, but you know what they say about assuming . . .”

This is how the chapter “Scenes From a Real Marriage” starts, and although it is, indeed, about her marriage, it’s also about getting older, and how Ripa learned how to not give a damn (despite her husband, who is only six months younger, referring to her as a cougar, that is).

She turned 50 on Oct. 2, 2020, right in the midst of the pandemic. Not an ideal scenario for a party to be sure, but the actual aging part? That’s a cakewalk, because Ripa believes that with age, comes power — an awakening that the only opinions that matter are your own, or those who love you. Also, she’s had Botox — as she frankly admits in the chapter “Aging Gracefully: The Big Lie” — and is proud of it, so let the haters hate! But really, just don’t. It’s pretty commonplace these days; stigma over, okay?

“I loved my 40s, but in your 50s, you reach a whole new level, where it goes from actively not caring to passively not caring about other people’s opinions. In my 40s, I was all, ‘You’re wrong, and here’s why.’ Now I’m like ‘Oh, that’s interesting that you think that, interesting take.’ That’s as much as I’ll get into it now. Whereas I used to be actively disinterested, now I’m passively disinterested. It is the most liberating feeling on earth — though I do shudder to think what will happen to me at 60. Will I not just even bother to put on undergarments? Is that the age where you’re like, ‘I really don’t care anymore?’ I mean, I still think I’ll go that extra mile to make sure my underpinnings are in place, just in case there’s an accident. And as you now know, I cannot trust my husband in the event of an untimely emergency to dress me properly; I have to have those clothes laid out in advance,” she quips.All joking aside, Ripa has struggled with social anxiety for most of her life, which she lays out pretty transparently in Live Wire in a chapter called “The White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” about just that. Given how supremely confident she comes across, this is hard to imagine, and I say just that.

“First of all, I have a fear of public speaking, which — ha-ha every year I think this is the year it’s gonna get cured, but I really am very terrified in social settings, I’m very awkward in them. For some reason, this always reads as funny. People will say to me, ‘You are so funny, you are the life of the party,’ and I’m like ‘Not really, I’m dying on the inside.’ I don’t know where that stuff stems from, I think it’s just who I’ve always been, part of who I’ve always been. That’s why acting was good for me, because I didn’t really have the burden of ever having to be myself in real life,” she explains.

Ripa has done a deep dive about this with close pal Anderson Cooper, which has helped. “He also has a fear of public speaking, and so he told me that when he started doing speaking engagements for his book, it really helped him — the more he did it, the more comfortable he got. [Yet] I still find when I have to present an award to a friend or give a speech on behalf of a friend, that I suffer such crippling social anxiety. I always say that I have to love them more than I love myself, because it literally takes like years off my life. When I hosted SNL, I felt that years had been drained from my life because that was definitely the most terrified I’ve ever been. Everybody is like, ‘You should be so comfortable — live TV is your bag.’ I’m like, ‘This is a whole different thing.’ I’m comfortable on my show now after almost 23 years of doing it, but it took a really long time to get there, for me to feel comfortable, and it took another 15 years before I settled in.”

Kelly Ripa
The cover of Ripa’s first book, “Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories”

Photo Credit: Harper Collins
Talking to Ripa, hearing her fears, it’s easy to forget just how successful she is, that she’s a six-time Daytime Entertainment Emmy Award winner with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame that has been listed on pretty much every single “power” list you can imagine, who, alongside Consuelos, also runs the successful production company Milojo Productions — she’s just that relatable. She is not an untouchable person; her warmth and candor are part of the reason she’s been so successful. She is human. And like any human, if you cut her, she bleeds.

Which brings me to the toughest chapter for Ripa to write: “Fool Me Twice,” about the challenges she endured when she initially joined the Live team. It was a uniquely challenging chapter because, not only was it painful, but she doesn’t like discussing her late co-host, Regis Philbin, publicly. But if there was one safe space to do so, her own book had to be it. So she wrote her truth.

“I want people to understand that joining Live, from my perspective, was a terrifying venture. It was entering into a work environment that I did not understand. I think had I gone in there now, I would have been fully equipped to handle it, but back then, I was not equipped in any sense of the word. And therefore, I did not protect myself the way I probably should have. It was a different time, back then. It was a tabloid, journalistic, free-for-all, and there were systems in place there for a long time at the talk show that were not necessarily there to protect me.”

Here are some highlights (or lowlights, as it were). Before joining the show, she was warned: “Make sure you know who your boss is;” back then, Philbin allowed to say things that definitely wouldn’t fly today, such as referring to her publicly as “It” — “Uh-oh… it’s got an entourage” (she had two people — hair and makeup); there would be no paid maternity leave (she was pregnant while auditioning for the job); and she was commanded not to look directly at executive producer Michael Gelman. Maybe she’d be turned to stone?

And then there was Regis himself — on the show, off the show, and after the show. She and Philbin weren’t the best of friends, but they were civil, even friendly, and so she was shocked to hear that, during an interview with the late Larry King, Philbin said that Ripa became angry, stopped speaking to him, and hadn’t seen him since the show — none of which was true. Philbin had come back to the show for a special Halloween episode, which was aired. Ripa had invited him over for dinner numerous times. She didn’t point these things out because she didn’t want to add fuel to the fire, but now, with Live Wire, it was finally time to set the record straight.

“A lot of times I didn’t comment on things because I don’t want to extend the news cycle. My silence means more than the chatter. If I’m not saying something, it’s because I’m being graceful and I’m letting my silence do the talking for me,” she says.

In Live Wire, she doesn’t address everything; that would be impossible —but hopefully she’s written enough to share her side of the story and quell the naysayers. “It’s hard to put everything out there, so I didn’t,” she admits. “It’s like a Monet: You really have to stand back and see the big picture. You don’t want to get too involved because if I were to break it down, it would be almost too much, too unpalatable. I still wanted [the book] to be entertaining at the end of the day.”

This chapter, for the record, is not just about Philbin; it was predominantly about the misogynistic work culture of yesteryear that she had to endure. “We talk about all of the awakening that we’ve had in society, but I still find far too often that women are always challenged and asked to take responsibility for the behaviors of men, and it’s really unfair,” she says.

Which leads to what she hopes the takeaway from her tales will be. “I think that in life, as a woman, you have to self-advocate. I’ve been called ambitious, but not in a good way. I’ve been called exacting, also not in a good way. But these are actually really great things, and I think that the fear of not being liked overlies our best intuitions about entering into business arrangements, or contract negotiations, and more often than not, I have come away asking for less than what I know the fair market value of a person like me is. ‘Know your worth,’ as [Morning Joe co-host] Mika Brzezinski always says. Know your value and hold your value. Don’t offer yourself at a discount.”

This sentiment shouldn’t just be applied to work, either. “It works with everything, even dating advice,” she says. “I did not settle, and I got Mark. I was fishing with tackle that should not have landed him, but I got him because I did not settle, and I found my person.”

And where is Ripa today? She’s confident, sassy, and takes full ownership of who she is and where she’s at. She says now: “I had a hard time finding my voice. It took what felt like an eternity, but I finally found it. And it’s mine.”

Loud and clear.

Kelly Ripa
DRESS: Jason Wu

Photo Credit: Miller Mobley