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Ricki Lake Biography

A brief bio of talk show host Ricki Lake

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Talk show host Ricki Lake

Talk show host Ricki Lake

20th Century Fox

Born Ricki Pamela Lake on Sept. 21, 1968, former - and future - talk show host began her career as an actress, discovered by a well-known independent filmmaker, and became one of the most popular daytime talk show hosts of the 1990s.

Lake was born in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, to a pharmacist and a homemaker. Lake caught the acting bug early on, singing professional in New York at age nine. She even transferred from Hastings High School during her sophomore year to the prestigious Professional Children's School in New York City to further develop her skills as an actress.

After graduation, Lake went on to Ithaca College, where she continued her studies. She was a freshman when she got a call from her agent to audition for an independent film that would be shot in nearby Baltimore, Md. Finishing finals, Lake went to the audition and landed the part of Tracy Turnblad, the overweight and overly charismatic lead in John Waters' Hairspray.

The 1988 film was a hit and, suddenly, Lake was star. She dropped out of college and went on to star in a number of Waters' films, including Cry Baby with Johnny Depp and Serial Mom with Kathleen Turner.

At the same time, Lake launched a daytime talk show aimed at her generation, Generation X. It seemed no one in daytime TV was talking to this recently graduated and radically different generation. Lake's 1993 show, Ricki Lake, took up the mantle.

What made the show a hit, however, was its quick turn toward tabloid sensationalism. Usual for the time, Lake's show quickly charted waters that included paternity issues, weird relationship problems and other over-the-top topics. Guests would erupt into arguments, the atmosphere would get unusually tense and security would eventually get involved. It was a style perfected by Jerry Springer, who would allow the genre to cross the line and become a parody of itself.

The show left the air in 2004, and Lake returned to acting. She took parts in Mrs. Winterbourne with Shirley Maclaine and appeared in the slapstick comedy Cabin Boy. She was a regular on the hit TV show China Beach during its first season and had a recurring role on King of the Hill.

Documentaries and Returning to TV Beyond her talk show, Lake may be best known as a proponent for natural birth. Her documentary, The Business of Being Born, made its debut in 2008 and continues to gain an audience. The film documents Lake's home-birthing experience, talks about the pros and cons of natural childbirth, and introduces viewers to the day-to-day responsibilities of a midwife. She has called the film her "life's work" and hopes the film educates and empowers people to understand what their choices are in childbirth.

Lake followed the film with a book, titled Your Best Birth and part-runs a website dedicated to natural childbirth, called MyBestBirth.com. There, Lake and Business of Being Born producer Abby Epstein, discusses birthing options and resources. The site serves as a social network for parents and medical professionals.

Even with all that going on (and a return to the silver screen in 2012's Angel), Lake hopes to launch a brand new daytime talk show in 2012, titled The Ricki Lake Show. The new program will steer clear of the sensational topics from Ricki Lake, and instead take up where Oprah left off - discussing timely topics, social issues and visiting with a celebrity guest now and then.

Fun Facts

  • Lake married - and later divorced - artist Rob Sussman. The two met at a Halloween party in 1993. They have two sons, Milo and Owen. Lake has a new beau, however, Christian Evans, a jewelry designer. The couple will wed in 2012.
  • Her weight loss is a well-known. At one point, Lake says she weighed just over 270 pounds. She now weighs under 140.
  • Remains a vegetarian.
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