Kelly Ripa, the leading lady of Live! for the past 22 years and one of the most recognizable broadcasters of all time, revealed she nearly quit the show as her contract expired and as she was still facing sexist treatment by ABC executives. “I don’t think they wanted to pay me. I think they had to pay me,” she told Variety in a profile published on May 28. “I was trying to walk out the door and close it behind me. And I think they really figured out rapidly that they had screwed up in a major way, and it was not a good look. I think that was really the impetus behind paying me fairly. They had no choice.”
Without naming names, Kelly, 52, openly shared several more examples of the inconsiderate treatment she’s gotten over the years from ABC executives despite being the anchor of the show for two decades as three men have switched out — two of which infamously left the show with no warning to Kelly. Kelly made her morning talk show debut in Feb. 2001 alongside the late Regis Philbin until his departure in 2011. He announced his retirement on air, and it was the first time Kelly heard about it. The same thing happened after Michael Strahan, who hosted with her between 2012 and 2016, signed a deal to host Good Morning America. She did not find out until the contract was signed, and as viewers will recall, took a four-day hiatus from Live! to accept what had just happened to her again.
“It was very tough,” she reflected. “Had I known how difficult it would have been, I don’t know that I would have gone for it. I just think my ignorance in that situation wound up being my blessing and my superpower. I did not have an easy time.”
Kelly’s mistreatment went much further than surprise host changes. She revealed that while her male counterpart had a private bathroom, she had to use the same bathroom as the entire production team and studio audience. “We have a studio audience — like 250 people! — and I have to queue up. Particularly when I was pregnant, it was extraordinarily exhausting to have to wait in line. I have to host the show, and I’m still waiting in line to use the bathroom,” she recalled. “It just seemed, you know, a very needlessly difficult situation.”
Furthermore, she claimed she had to fight her way into a proper office that was being “saved” for executives and future male co-hosts. In the meantime — and for years — she was using a janitor’s closet as an office, despite helping lead the most-watched syndicated talk show on TV. “It was the strangest experience I’ve ever had in my life. I was told that I couldn’t have an office. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially because there were empty offices that I could have easily occupied,” she told Variety. She noted that after four years, ABC cleaned out the closet and gave her a desk, but did not move her out of the closet.
The New Jersey native claimed she pushed her way into an actual office in 2016 after Michaels’s sudden departure. “They said, ‘Oh, no, we’re saving that.’ And I said, ‘Saving it for what?’ And they go, ‘Well, for when the new guy comes,’” she remembered. “And I looked at them, and I said, ‘I am the new guy.’ I just moved my things. I forced my way into the office because I couldn’t understand how I would still be in the janitor’s closet and somebody new would come in and get the office.”
Ryan Seacrest, 48, who has been by Kelly’s side on Live! since 2017, announced his departure from the show earlier this year — but Kelly was well aware of the transition. And even though her husband of 26 years, Mark Conuelos, is joining her, Kelly admitted she still has some unwelcome nerves about the upcoming change. “Ryan and Mark were like, ‘What are you nervous about? It’s going to be fine,’” she explained. “And I said to them, ‘You have to forgive me. I have a little PTSD.’”
Ryan’s final day on Live! With Kelly and Ryan will be Friday, April 14.