Kelly Ripa worked out of a janitor’s closet for years on Live

Kelly Ripa is on the cover of Variety talking about her time on Live. While there is much of the article I think is manipulated by Kelly and her team, she also goes into detail about her start at Live and how poorly she was treated. She touched on a lot of this in her book as well and it’s grim. While hard to believe, I’m sure they were this cruel until a woman, Debra O’Connell from Disney, took over in 2018. For Kelly’s first 10 years, she had to fight for a bathroom, a clothing allowance, and vacation pay. And that was even after she took over the first chair. It took four years for ABC to even give Kelly an office. Prior to that, they let empty offices stay empty just in case West Coast execs came for a visit. When they finally did make space for Kelly, it was an old janitors closet. And when Regis Philbin left, they weren’t going to give her his office. So she just took it.

When Ripa started as co-host of “Live!,” she says she wasn’t given paid vacation time or maternity leave or a wardrobe budget. In her 2022 book “Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories,” Ripa writes that she was “commanded” to use Philbin’s hair and makeup team over her own. As has been well documented, Ripa was kept in the dark by her bosses — twice — about her co-hosts’ exits: Philbin announced on-air that he’d be retiring after he couldn’t come to an agreement over his contract with ABC, without giving Ripa any notice. And then again, in 2016, Machiavellian ABC executive Ben Sherwood hatched a plan to steal Strahan for “Good Morning America,” instructing everyone at the network to keep the switch a secret from Ripa until the contract was signed.

“It was very tough,” Ripa says about her rocky times on the show. “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.”

On this afternoon on the first day of spring in New York City, Ripa is willing to spill some more daytime tea in an effort to show how she learned to stick up for herself. She says ABC stalled for years in even granting her a permanent office backstage on “Live!” The best the network could do was to empty a janitor’s closet for her to use. In fact, it took Ripa more than three seasons to even negotiate that space. “It was the strangest experience I’ve ever had in my life. I was told that I couldn’t have an office,” she says. “It didn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially because there were empty offices that I could have easily occupied.”

Ripa says that whenever she asked about those offices, she was told they were being reserved for executives visiting from the West Coast. “It was after my fourth year,” she says, “that they finally cleaned out the closet and put a desk in there for me. And so I was working in the janitor’s closet with a desk so that I could have a place to put things.”

After years of being told that the janitor’s closet was good enough, Ripa assumed that, having been elevated to the main host slot following Philbin’s departure, she had earned the right to a real office.

“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.’ And I looked at them, and I said, ‘I am the new guy,’” Ripa recalls. “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.

“Initially, I thought this is just what happens, and they don’t have to fill me in because I’ve only been here 10 years. I’m still the new girl. But then, when I was the more senior on-air person, it was like watching the same movie all over again: All of those offices that were not available to me were suddenly made available, with walls knocked down to make them twice as big. It was fascinating for me to watch — the need to make the new guy comfortable and respected, but I couldn’t use those offices. I had to use the broom closet.”

Ripa puts these stories into context, pointing out that this type of treatment toward women was not unusual back then. Without naming names, she notes that none of the people running the show in those days has remained in the news business. “It’s not any one person’s fault,” she says. “It was a collective fault of many people.”

But Ripa doesn’t necessarily blame her male co-hosts for not standing up for her. “The network had a duty and an obligation to keep all things equal,” she says. “I don’t blame the fellas — they were just doing what they had been told, or what they were instructed to do, or what they thought they deserved. Having said that, I go out of my way to protect the people I’m working with at any and all costs, even if it means that I am not as popular.”

[From Variety via DListed]

The excerpt was too long to include the bathroom stuff, but Regis had his personal bathroom and Kelly had to line up with the audience for her restroom breaks. That includes when she was pregnant. I’d be curious to know if Kathy Lee Gifford had an office during her time on Live? Kelly’s recounting sounds like a power play on ABC’s part. I admit I don’t really know how this all works but isn’t this where your manager or agent earns their money? Like, Kelly shouldn’t have to be the only one standing up for herself, there are people who should be fighting for her as well. An entire show and her team watched a pregnant woman line up with 250 audience members to use a restroom and her name was on the clapboard. Kelly said she still had enough PTSD from these years that when Ryan Seacrest announced he was leaving, she was afraid she’d lose her job. Screw those executives that got off on making a woman cower.

I don’t agree on letting anyone off for this, though. ‘Those fellas’ could have spoken up, especially if they were sitting in nice comfortable offices that should have been Kelly’s. If she’s talking specifically about Regis, I suspect he felt it wasn’t his fight to have. Doesn’t excuse him at all, but I doubt his motivation was a direct attack on Kelly. He’s a jerk for this though, as is everyone else in power who worked there and didn’t speak up for her.

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16 Responses to “Kelly Ripa worked out of a janitor’s closet for years on Live”

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  1. Leanne says:

    This is classic misogyny. It’s unbelievable that they were saving the office for the “new guy.”

  2. TOM says:

    A very good pal of mine went through the same years-long hazing, just not in show biz. Very skilled, knowledgeable, credentialed and therefore a threat. She even was given a janitor’s closet, too. Many other petty insults. All the while, she was a success with clients. She stayed because her partner was genuinely locked into that location.

    Her co-workers largely stood by and watched.

    She fought the good fight for 13 years. Suddenly, she just had enough and quit. They lost a huge talent in her.

    • ama1977 says:

      Same. Not Hollywood, but the hospitality industry. I got passed over for promotions that less qualified, less intelligent, less hardworking men got for YEARS. The final straw was being passed over yet again because I wasn’t part of the boy’s club. I gave my notice the day the decision was announced, made a 180 career change with the help of my fantastic husband who held down the fort with two little kids so I could go back to school and finish a credential I needed, and never looked back.

      I’m disgusted to hear this. Kelly Ripa isn’t my cup of tea, but nobody can say she doesn’t hustle and work hard, and this is just appalling.

  3. Meh says:

    This is incredibly disturbing, and yes, every one of those men should have spoken up. The fact that they did not, speaks to the fact that ‘those fellas’ enjoyed their power too much to fight for justice and equality for their female colleague. I don’t blame Kelly for not calling the men out publicly. Imagine the backlash had she not given the men a free pass. It’s rough out there for women, but kudos to Kelly for taking the damn office.

    • Lizzie Bathory says:

      Life lesson: the same guys who will deign to give you a closet after years on the job will be too cowardly to boot you out of an office once you claim it.

      Good for Kelly. Take up space & dare them to tell you to your face that you don’t deserve it.

      • Meh says:

        Truth, @Lizzie.

      • BeanieBean says:

        Exactly. Just claim your space. When I first moved to a new place for a new job, they had an empty corner office while I had the teeny tiny office of my predecessor. I asked about the corner office & it wasn’t being saved for anyone, so I said I wanted it. My boss said something about having to check with the union or something, and I said fine, do that, please, and just started moving my stuff down the hall. After I had everything moved in, he let me know he had asked everyone else in the office if they had wanted it & everybody else said no, so it was mine.
        Kelly was really treated like crap by far too many people at that job, I’m really surprised she stuck it out. Kathy Lee had her own office, I remember seeing of photos of her in it; I think they may have even done a segment on her office upgrade once. No office at all, then giving her the janitor’s closet?? Beyond insulting.

  4. Carol Mengel says:

    Yeah, I’m not sure how much of this I believe. Kelly tends to embellish to make a good story. Lining up with audience members to use the bathroom? And she’s never leaving. She’s making a gazillion dollars a year to talk about herself, which is her favorite subject, and now she’s providing her husband with a job too.

    • Meh says:

      Centering your own cynical assumptions about a woman’s experience, even as she is telling you her own painful, lived experience. Nice, Carol.

  5. Moxylady says:

    What the f…… people always watched for her. reg was just the old cranky grandpa dude the young granddaughter made laugh and listened to.
    I don’t know anything about her really. But I do know that she has worked with a variety of co-stars and interviews people for a living and seems to be able to establish or fake a rapport with almost anyone. She seems like a gem.
    Which is probably why they treated her like trash. So she would focus on proving herself to “earn” the things the men were given on day one rather than focus on the fact that she’s the constant and the reason people tune in and then demand more money etc.

  6. Moxylady says:

    Lastly. Regis is an absolute c-u for not telling her. That could have been the end of the show. She could have lost her job. She was the breadwinner with small children at home. Incredibly sh!tty.

  7. Concern Fae says:

    I knew a guy who was in a similar position to these execs. He saw many women as divas and troublemakers. Would deliberately set up situations where there were issues like the bad office or late food, so that was what the arguments were over. He said if you could make talent happy, you made them happy. If you couldn’t, you gave them something to be unhappy about.

  8. WiththeAmericann says:

    Using the same bathroom as the audience was a safety threat for her. Plus not having privacy. anything I worked on, even the lowest level “stars” were given their own accommodations. Makes me wonder if at first Regis didn’t demand that she not be treated in any way equally.

    Wonder why her agent never got favored nations clause, though.

    What a ridiculous system. she is has always made that show.

  9. Angelica Schuyler says:

    I recall Sonny Hostin saying similar things about how she was treated when she started at The View. ABC/ Disney was definitely not looking out for the women…

  10. FilmTurtle says:

    Never been a fan, never even watched “Live” in any of its incarnations, but I believe the PTSD. I mean, the network betrayed her, her co-hosts betrayed her AND her agents/managers screwed her over by not fighting for what their client deserved (and she wasn’t asking for anything over-the-top at ALL).

  11. Meg says:

    Even someone with as long a career as her was still gaslit by these people treating her like she was disposable & not valuable. We talk about imposter syndrome, if she gave them bad ratings they would’ve fired her but she clearly doesn’t yet is treated like this? Was this an effort to make her doubt herself? They seem to resent her involvement in the show success?
    Maybe she’s had so many cohosts because it’s a toxic environment and they want out too