Ricki Lake Revisits (and Revises) Her 1994 Interview Cover Story

By
Photography Bruce Weber

Published December 27, 2019

On Second Thought offers iconic subjects the rare chance to revisit an interview from our archives, and reckon with the good and the bad of it. In this edition, we sit down with the documentary filmmaker, John Waters muse, and X Factor: Celebrity contestant Ricki Lake, as she revisits—and revises—her 1994 cover story for this magazine, shortly after the launch of her seminal daytime talk show.   

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“Our show was that voice for a younger generation. It was always taken from a younger person’s perspective. Oprah would do an episode called ‘My Daughter Dresses Like a Tramp.’ Our show would be called ‘My Mother Thinks I Dress Like a Tramp.’”

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“I’ve become a huge Howard Stern fan. I think he intimidated me. He’s so smart and so likable that he can get anybody, including me, to talk about anything. You’re under his spell. When I was on Howard’s show, I had recently met John Mayer at a party and we’d had a connection, for lack of a better word. I’d been out with him, and the next day it was on Page Six. Howard immediately started grilling me about it, and the next thing you know, he was having me call John Mayer on air.”

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“Looking back, I always treated everybody the way I wanted to be treated, and I didn’t understand how meaningful that would be. It’s only years later that I would say, ‘Wow, we really did do something that was positive and helpful for people.’ And that’s something, you know?”

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“I was pretty spot-on in saying that I didn’t know who I was at 25. It’s sort of presumptuous that I was given this show—hilarious, actually. I was this moderator giving people advice when I didn’t even know who I was. It was only years later, after 9/11, after having kids, and really going through trauma, that I found my voice.”

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“I gained 60 pounds in between doing Hairspray and Cry-Baby, from 200 to 260 pounds. And after Cry-Baby and this show I did called China Beach, the jobs didn’t come anymore. I knew that in this business I needed to have a gimmick, something that set me apart, and I knew that being fat wasn’t really working for me anymore. So I did the one thing I thought I could do for myself, which was to go on a starvation diet and lose weight. I lost 100 pounds before I got the talk show.”

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“I totally did break the mold, and it’s with life experience that I have more reverence for what I was able to achieve. I have to give credit to John Waters for seeing in me the qualities he wanted for that character. And thank god he did, because I don’t know what I would be doing without having had that job as my entry into this business.”

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“I’ve definitely had ups and downs. I lost my house. I was homeless for a few weeks. I went from rags to riches and riches to rags and then back again. But the talk show absolutely changed my life. I appreciate the level of fame I had then and I love that I live a very normal lifestyle now.”