How Ricki Lake stays environmentally conscious
Her latest chapter includes a new book, a new talk show and a new husband.
Wed, May 02, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
Appearing at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books as part of a national tour to promote her memoir "Never Say Never: Finding a Life that Fits," Ricki Lake was looking forward to having the next day, Earth Day, off, and planned to spend it enjoying her garden with her new husband, Christian Evans. "I have hummingbirds and every year they build nests. We have two eggs now," she said during an appearance at the L.A. Times Stage, adding that she grows vegetables including green beans and artichokes, drives a hybrid, and has hired Sungevity to install solar panels on her house. "I do everything I can do be environmentally conscious."
Lake talked about the "cathartic experience" of writing her book, which changed significantly over the course of the two-year writing process. She set out to tell her warts-and-all life story, including her Westchester, N.Y., childhood that included an episode of sexual abuse, her struggles with weight, a traumatic house fire, her estranged relationship with her mother, her marriage, pregnancy, divorce and a career that took her from "Hairspray" (its director, John Waters, wrote the foreword) to talk-show queendom, accolades for her documentary "The Business of Being Born" to "Dancing With the Stars." Post-divorce and past 40, she was "cynical, heartbroken ... a woman who didn't believe in love anymore." But all that changed when she met Christian. "I'd done a lot of work on myself, a lot of soul searching, a lot of healing," she said, explaining that she learned things about herself, what her dreams were, and what she wanted from a relationship. "I was open and ready to meet someone."
Lake had been offered a book deal before but never felt that she was ready to write her story until now, and now that she has, she's proud of it. "I've made mistakes, I'm not perfect, but I feel like I'm evolving and getting better with age. I'm a work in progress. I have struggles and hardships and I've overcome a lot in my life. I think women can relate to me," she reflected.
That's one of the reasons she did "Dancing With the Stars," signing on despite a terror of being embarrassed to compete against slimmer women, wearing a skimpy spangled costume. "It's about jumping in and facing your fears. It was such an accomplishment for me. Getting third place was winning in my book. There was no way I was gonna beat the war hero," she realized. "But I took away so much from that experience. I'm so grateful for it."
Lake will return to TV on Sept. 10 as the host of a new daily syndicated talk show that will find her in a different place than she was in her first time behind the desk. "When you're in your 40s, you know who you are, you've settled into yourself and you've had life experience. It's very different from when I was 24 in 1993." Back then, she looked to her role model, Oprah Winfrey, for inspiration, "but this time I'm channeling me," she compared, adding that the show will be a platform to discuss topics of particular importance to women, such as children and education, and will use social media to spread awareness. Lake is also an executive producer of the show.
With all that's on her plate, acting is "on the back burner. I don't go on auditions anymore. If John Waters wrote a role for me, I would absolutely do it," she said, not ready to close the door entirely "if some cool opportunities come my way." But right now she has a full plate with the talk show and wanting to have time for her husband and children. She calls Christian "this soft rock" that has calmed her down, keeps her grounded, and has gotten her Type A self to take a breath and find balance. "I love to work, but I also love coming home and doing nothing and being in my garden with him. I chose to be a public person but I also love to go home at night and turn it all off."
Asked for valuable advice she'd pass along, Lake related something that Waters told her 25 years ago. "He said, 'Always stay true to yourself, always be humble, and if you read and believe the good press, you have to read and believe the bad.' That has stayed with me my entire life. I might have a little more money now," she said, "but I haven't lost sight of where I come from and how I appreciate everything that's come my way."