At the beginning of Kelly Ripa’s “Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories” (Day Street, 320 pp., out now), she drolly recalls how her book announcement got overshadowed by Prince Harry announcing his upcoming memoir.
Now, Ripa’s debut book arrives just one week after Queen Elizabeth’s funeral and wall-to-wall royals coverage. The “Live” host doesn’t think the timing is a coincidence.
“I feel like they are pretty much asking me to be a member of the family,” Ripa deadpans, speaking to USA TODAY over Zoom last week. “They’re proper British, and they’re not just going to come right out and say they want me to join. So this is their subtle British way of saying, ‘Kelly, yes, it is you.’ ”
Ripa’s irreverent humor and conversational prose is on full display in “Live Wire,” which brims with slice-of-life stories about her longtime marriage to “All My Children” co-star Mark Consuelos and raising their three kids: Michael, 25, Lola, 21, and Joaquin, 19.
She also gets candid about co-hosting the morning show “Live!” with Regis Philbin for a decade until he retired in 2011. The two rarely socialized off camera and rumors of a “feud” ran amok, with Philbin claiming in 2017 that Ripa was “very offended” by his exit and never invited him back on the show. (In fact, he appeared on a 2015 Halloween episode of “Live,” in which Ripa hugged Philbin and invited him to her house.)
Ripa, 51, talks more about Philbin, Consuelos and how she hopes to make Botox less “taboo.”
Question: You write about learning to say, “No, that doesn’t work for me,” and not apologizing for it. When did you realize how important that was?
Answer: There were so many times I realized I was putting myself last and “yes”-ing everyone to the point of exhaustion, burnout (and) mental collapse. And it was never met with any sort of reciprocal, “Oh yes, and in turn, we will give you a nice, long maternity leave.” None of that happened. So it really was the power of, “No, that doesn’t work for me,” that stops people in their tracks. They realize you are emphatically, completely saying no and explaining that it doesn’t work for you, and it leaves them nowhere to go.
It sounds simple, but you really have to rehearse it. People, particularly women, have a very hard time not saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” You’re not sorry. That doesn’t work for you. Period.
After so many years of people pitting you and Regis against each other – including Regis himself a couple times in interviews – how did it feel to set the record straight about your relationship?
Answer: It gave me a glimmer of hope. I was very careful in those chapters and very reverent towards him. I am fully aware of his legacy and everything he brought to the table, so I just wanted to use it facts on record. I did not understand this need to vilify the woman always, and when it’s a two-person discussion, why isn’t it a two-person discussion? Nobody ever asked me to clarify anything; I wasn’t asked for my side of the story.
It was somehow this false narrative that I had abandoned someone that I was very close to – that we were best friends and I had abandoned him. And none of that was true. We had a very professional, working relationship. I enjoyed listening to him tell his stories more than anyone. I loved that part of the show because it didn’t work at all. But to solely put the responsibility of maintaining a friendship that didn’t really exist (on me) … I have long-term friendships with all sorts of people I’ve worked with and nobody asks me about them ever. It’s just a very strange narrative that I found myself in that I couldn’t seem to get out of.
Why did you want to share your experiences with Botox and fillers?
It’s so taboo. If I wasn’t on camera, I don’t necessarily know that I would own a hairbrush. My appearance is not something I think about as much as you would think, but because of the nature of what I do, my appearance is constantly being pointed out to me by others. So I want people to know that no, you are not the only person aging. Everybody’s aging, but if you see people who are aging at a slower progression than you are, they are (probably) having help.
And that’s not everybody – some people are naturally gifted. My mom is 81 years old, she has never had any work done, and she has flawless skin. But she’s not under stress all the time and definitely has a better sleep schedule than I have. So what I’m saying is, the more people talk about it, maybe the less (judgmental others will be).
You say that “compromise” and “obstinance” are the secrets to your 26-year marriage with Mark. What do those words mean to you?
We compromise all the time. We are always saying that when we negotiate with each other, we are only mildly disappointed in the end result and that is a success. And then the obstinance is that we are too stubborn to ever quit on each other. We’re lifers. His parents have been married for 60 years, my parents have been married for 61 years. That’s all we know. We only know how to compromise and be together.
You end the book with a sweet chapter about your kids going to college, and you and Mark finding a new “beginning” as empty-nesters. What’s that experience been like so far?
We took our first vacation in 25 years together alone and it was magic. Sometimes we just sat with a cup of coffee and watched the sunset silently. It’s the decadence in those simple things that we are really taking away. There were years where it was like, “You’re going to go to the basketball game and I’ll make sure I get to field hockey practice.” We were always ships passing in the night and trying to find a way to connect with each other. So we’re really enjoying this time.