It may sound like a cliché, but Kelly Ripa, America’s favourite morning show host, is never “off.” Even when backstage, the 41-year-old star of Live! with Kelly never seems to dial down that energetic onscreen persona.
It’s a sunny day in Banff, Alta. Ripa and a rotating cast of co-hosts have been exploring the “winter wonderland” of the Canadian Rockies while taping four episodes for ABC and CTV.
Backstage at the Banff Centre’s Eric Harvie Theatre is a post-show beehive of activity, much of it centred around Ripa. Photos are being taken, executive producer Michael Gelman needs a few minutes to chat and publicists are hovering while media types line up for one-on-one interviews.
When we finally meet face-to-face in a small dressing room, Ripa recognizes my name from local coverage of her Banff stay. She greets me like a long-lost relative, explaining she isn’t used to such media coverage.
As implausible as that sounds, she seems sincere. She even has a decidedly egalitarian suggestion for a new approach to media: write a story about every person in the world.
“That would actually be a great social experiment,” says Ripa, her voice suddenly softening as if sharing a state secret. “Pick a person every day and make them feel special.”
Yes, Ripa is nothing if not perky and positive. With veteran co-host Regis Philbin retiring last November, she has taken her place as the show’s undisputed star; America’s early morning sweetheart with an uncanny ability to interact with whomever is sitting in that co-host chair. But, as much as anything, her appeal seems to be based on her ability to be down to earth and self-deprecating. So, when it comes to holidays, it’s perhaps not surprising Ripa says her choices often revolve around her kids.
Ripa and husband, actor and occasional co-host Mark Consuelos, have three children: Michael, 15, Lola, 11 and Joaquin, 9. The trip to Banff was a rare, child-free “second honeymoon” for the couple. When not working, destinations are usually based around family adventures, whether it be fly-fishing on Trout Lake, Col., or sailing lessons in the lower Grenadines of the lower Caribbean.
“There are areas where it’s very shallow, and your kids can learn to sail without rocky waves,” Ripa says. “You swim to shore to have lunch, you swim back.”
When asked what her favourite destination has been for family getaways, Ripa’s answer is surprising. She loves the British Virgin Islands and goes to Colorado every year to ski and snowshoe. But if she had to pick just one?
“Prince Edward Island has stayed with me,” says Ripa, who travelled there in July 2010 for four episodes of what was then Live! with Regis and Kelly.
“It’s left its mark on me. I think about it, I dream about it. I remember seeing my children happier there than they’ve ever been. We did amazing things, but we did the real things that matter in life: we took walks, the kids played in the ocean. We did things that didn’t require gadgets and equipment. Because we are raising our kids in New York City, we love the wilderness and I think children need that. We like to bring them to unspoiled places.”
Ripa quickly dismisses the notion that her fame ever interferes with holidays with the family. She says she and Consuelos deal with the same things many parents deal with while on vacation, whether it be a toddler’s temper tantrum at Walt Disney World after being denied a stuffed animal, or making sure little Joaquin doesn’t “slither under the bar” when riding a ski lift.
So, when fans see them vacationing, they tend to see a family, not celebs, she says.
Which is exactly how she likes it.
“I live across the street from a restaurant,” Ripa says. “One day, this famous couple were in the restaurant. I only know this because police barricades were set up and the entire street was shut down. My daughter and I were sitting in her bedroom looking out the window. I thought it was a hostage situation. I’ve never seen anything like that before. They came out and it was crazy: people screaming, getting photos. That’s not how we live at all. It’s all very normal. Nobody does that to us. If people recognize us they may say hello, which is always very nice. We’re a regular family; our kids have grown up on TV. Nobody gives us that much of a fuss.”