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Ricki Lake is an American film actress and television host best known for her starring role as Tracy Turnblad in the original Hairspray.
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At age twenty-five, she got the job and became the youngest host in talk show history.
Ricki Lake debuted in September 1993 and, in its first season, skyrocketed to the top of the charts, second only to seasoned veteran, Oprah. The show’s unprecedented success seemed to derive from Lake’s no-holds barred take on such heated issues as teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and infidelity, as well as her skillful provocation of the emotionally charged audience. The show also featured hip music and a youthful set, with extra perks like surprise guests and pop quizzes. Lake seemed to take the talk show forum through a new evolution, gearing it up for the next generation.
Although producers were delighted with Lake’s bold slant on the talk show medium, many more conservative critics were offended by such in-your-face titles as “Mom, When My Boyfriend Gets Out of Jail, I’m Taking Him Back,” and “Girlfriend, I Slept With Your Man and I’ll Do It Again,” and believed Lake was purposely picking topics for the inevitably ugly confrontations that would ensue. There were even rumors that Lake went backstage to get her guests riled up before going out on stage. Lake admits that she does pick audience members who seem to hold strong opinions when she fields them for questions, but she staunchly defends her show against claims that it is exploitative and insists that all of her guests and their stories are real. She told Mark Marvel of Interview, “what we are basically doing is offering a stage or an arena where people can talk about what interests them and what bothers them and where they can be heard and have a little fun.”
Although Ricki Lake has significantly bolstered Lake’s career, she still seeks a return to her true loves, acting and singing. Though the demands of the show make it difficult to seriously pursue acting opportunities, she did make time to appear in a third Waters film, Serial Mom, in 1994, and an unfortunate box office flop, Mrs. Winterbourne, in 1996. In 2004, the show announced it was coming to a close after 11 seasons.
Lake married illustrator Rob Sussman in Las Vegas in 1993, after meeting and falling in love with him at a Halloween party only six months earlier. The two have collaborated on a children’s book entitled Sophie’s Revenge, as well as an anti-fur protest in 1994, for which they were both arrested. Lake currently resides in New York City with her husband and baby boy, Milo, who was born in 1997.
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