Kelly Ripa is opening up about her experiences with sexism on the set of her daytime talk show Live!, which she’s co-hosted since 2001. In a new cover story for Variety, the television personality claims that ABC refused to give her a permanent office while she hosted the show with Regis Philbin, eventually moving her into a janitor’s closet.
“It was the strangest experience I’ve ever had in my life,” Ripa told the magazine. “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.”
The network told Ripa that the empty offices were reserved for executives visiting from the West Coast, according to the former All My Children star. After three seasons of Live! with Regis and Kelly, Ripa finally negotiated her own space. But the network offered her something less than ideal for a network talk show host.
“It was after my fourth year that they finally cleaned out the closet and put a desk in there for me,” she said. “And so I was working in the janitor’s closet with a desk so that I could have a place to put things.”
Philbin, who passed away in 2020, stepped down from the syndicated morning show in 2011. Ripa said that she planned to move into his former office once he left, as she had been elevated to main host. However, Ripa was told that they were saving his space for “when the new guy comes.” (Michael Strahan would join the show in 2012.)
“I looked at them, and I said, ‘I am the new guy,’” Ripa recalled. “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.
She continued: “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.”
Additionally, the former All My Children star revealed that she didn’t have a private bathroom in the show’s early seasons and would have to wait in line for the open bathroom for audience members—including when she was pregnant.
“Picture this,” Ripa said. “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. It just seemed, you know, a very needlessly difficult situation.”
Ripa also opened up about the network’s reluctance to offer her fair pay. She told Variety that the network only felt pressure to pay her what she deserved once her contract ended, and she had the option to leave.
“I don’t think they wanted to pay me,” she said. “I think they had to pay me. 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.”
Despite how glaringly her work conditions were at the time, Ripa said she doesn’t blame her male co-hosts, saying it was “the collective fault of many.” Still, she said she is the type of person who would “go out of [her] way to protect people.”
“The network had a duty and an obligation to keep all things equal,” the daytime host said. “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.”
Previously, Ripa spoke out about some of the difficulties she faced working alongside Philbin for a decade during the promotional tour for her recent book Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories.
In a People cover story last year, she said that it “took years to earn my place there and earn things that are routinely given to the men I worked with, including an office and a place to put my computer.” When asked specifically about Philbin, she said, “I don’t want to feel like I’m slamming anyone or that I’m being disrespectful. But I also want people to know it was not a cakewalk.”