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New Jersey will induct South Jersey’s Kelly Ripa into its Hall of Fame this month. But despite the honor (and the hit TV show, six Emmys and successful production company), the mom of three says she’s really not all that extraordinary. In fact, she says she’s rather ordinary. And ordinary is just the way she likes it.

On weekday mornings, Kelly Ripa is an absolute superstar. Fresh-faced and impossibly fit at 46, she helms her longtime ABC morning show, “Live with Kelly,” alongside a rotating cast of co-hosts. She is beloved by audiences for her joyful exuberance, her quick wit and girl-next-door warmth. She sips from an oversized mug, makes jokes and banters with celebrity guests. Then, she goes home and disappears.

“I believe my superpower is that when I wash my face after work and put my hair in a ponytail I look positively ordinary, and I blend right in,” she says. “I really go about my life in a very normal way. My life is very normal, and I thank God for that.”

Ripa is quick to say that her desire for normalcy – and just about everything else – is thanks to her parents, Joseph and Esther, and her Camden County childhood.

“There was always a lot of love and laughter in the house, and tons of fun,” she says.

“My mom and dad are the reason I am who I am today. What you see on the show is just the way I used to act at home. I mostly talk to nice people and I give back what I get. But treat me with disrespect, and you’ll learn real fast that I’m from Jersey.”

Though Ripa has lived in New York City for more than two decades, she’s still connected to her home state. In May, she’ll be inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. While a committee chooses a list of nominees, a public ballot is used to determine the recipients of the honor.

“I didn’t know there was actually a ballot,” Ripa says. “My son’s doctor, who lives in New Jersey, said, ‘There’s a ballot that goes out, and I voted for you!’ Isn’t that crazy? It was the people of New Jersey!”

 

Kelly Ripa and CNN’s Anderson Cooper have appeared on “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen” several times Credit: Charles Sykes/Bravo

 

Steve Edwards, director of the Hall of Fame Foundation, says Ripa was a no-brainer.

“She is to me a quintessential Jersey girl,” he says. “She’s reached the pinnacle of her profession and is known not just nationally but internationally. Still, she hasn’t forgotten her roots. She talks on-air about how much she loves the state. If anyone should be inducted, it’s someone like that.”

At a ceremony this month, Ripa will be inducted alongside 14 other famous New Jerseyans, including legendary “Goodfellas” actor Ray Liotta. When Liotta appeared on “Live with Kelly” in February, Ripa joked that her parents would be attending the ceremony just to meet the on-screen gangster.

Each Hall of Fame inductee is introduced by a presenter – often a fellow celebrity or friend – and while Edwards says the presenters are a closely guarded secret, Ripa let slip to Liotta that she hoped her father would take the gig. In South Jersey, Joe Ripa’s name is almost as well known as his daughter’s. He’s a lifelong Camden County resident, former labor union leader and Freeholder, and has served as the Camden County Clerk since 2009.

Despite her new place in the N.J. Hall of Fame, Ripa is humble. Though she and her husband have two of the most famous faces in the country, she says they have a normal marriage and their kids have a normal life.

She’s been married to Mark Consuelos since 1996, after the two met on set of the soap opera “All My Children.” It was her first major TV appearance, playing party girl Hayley Vaughan and sharing the screen with Consuelos, who played the dashing Mateo Santos. Hayley and Mateo had an onscreen wedding in 2000, four years after Ripa and Consuelos eloped to Las Vegas.

Ripa speaks openly and often about her relationship with Consuelos, whom she calls “the nicest person I’ve ever met.” The couple has their own production company, called Milojo Productions after their three children, Michael, Lola and Joaquin.

“I was in love with [Mark] right away,” Kelly told actress Marlo Thomas in an interview. “From the moment I met him I knew he was the person I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. I looked at him and saw a life partner. Eloping to Las Vegas with him was the most fearless, terrifying and best thing I’ve ever done.”

Ripa’s won two Soap Opera Digest Awards and six Daytime Emmys. She’s been named one of the “Most Powerful People in Media” by Hollywood Reporter and given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But before the soap operas and the awards shows, before the production company, marriage and motherhood, before she’d ever met Regis Philbin, she was an off-key sixth grader in a South Jersey musical.

 

Click Here to See 9 Times Kelly Ripa Was Fabulous on Social Media!

 

Whenever Ripa, who was born in Stratford, is asked how she got her start, she credits a middle school theater director named Jim Beckley.

“No sixth grader had ever been cast in a musical,” she says. “I was the worst singer, but he thought I was quirky, and he gave me a shot. He cast me in ‘H.M.S. Pinafore,’ and I’ve always really appreciated him for that.”
The Gilbert and Sullivan comedic opera taught Ripa more than stage presence.

“I learned something very important,” she says. “When you get an audience laughing, you get them on your side. And if you can laugh at yourself, they’re bound to like you even more.”

But despite her success, Ripa insists she doesn’t take on the celebrity status you might expect.

“I don’t really think I’m famous,” she says. “We have famous people on the show, and I would never want to be them. It seems like a lot of attention and a lot of work.”

But some might say Ripa also works a lot. In addition to appearing on national TV five days a week, she’s heavily involved in philanthropic causes, including her long-time support of Cooper University Health Care, which renamed its women’s health program in honor of her family. The Ripa Center for Women’s Health & Wellness opened in 2007. She also frequently appears on late night talk shows, including “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on CBS and “Watch What Happens Live” with Andy Cohen on Bravo. (Ripa, Cohen and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper are said to be best pals.) She serves as a spokeswoman for a number of major brands, and Milojo Productions creates a constant stream of TV pilots, film shorts and feature documentaries, and – oh, yes – she’s a full-time mom of three.

“I think I’m the worst at balancing,” she says. “When I’m with the kids I think about what I’ve forgotten to do at work, and when I’m at work I think about what I’ve forgotten to do with the kids. I think that’s everyone. It’s just a product of modern-day society. I like to say that I fail everybody a little bit, but not too much. I’m not superwoman. I do those commercials that make me appear to be superwoman, but I want everyone to know that I am still a disaster. I still throw a red sock in with the white towels.”

The best thing Ripa does for herself – and, she says, her constant advice to other women – is making time to be alone.

“I talk a lot to moms out there, and the one thing I cannot say enough is even if you’re working, even if you’re busier than busy, even if you have a house full of kids, steal a little bit of time for yourself, even if it’s just to meditate, to just sit by yourself quietly,” she says. “You’ll be so much better off. It changes everything. The only private time I have some days is when I’m in the shower, so that’s where I let it all out.”

Ripa also sets aside at least 45 minutes a day to exercise, even on vacation. (If you thought that insane waistline was just genetic, you’re mistaken. Ripa says it’s the product of a lot of hard work.)

“Finding time in the day where I can exercise is a big stress reliever for me,” she says. “I do something to make my heart beat fast every day. I’m a better worker, a better mother and a better wife if I can devote that time to myself.”

It seems to be working. Onscreen and off, Ripa wears a near-constant smile. Quick with a joke or a kind word, what draws audiences to her is that unmistakable undercurrent of joy. Better yet; it’s the real thing.

“I just live a happy life,” she says. “I’m a happy person. If I was in a job I didn’t enjoy or a marriage I didn’t worship, I would not be this way. My parents are very positive people. They’ve been married more than 50 years. Mark and I both learned very early what was important. We have our health and three healthy kids, and everything else is just icing on the cake.

 

 

Ripa’s First Gig

Every actress has to get her start somewhere, and for Kelly Ripa, that big break happened on the memorable ’80s TV show “Dancin’ on Air.” Fit with her stylish perm and a neon tank, Ripa shimmied her way onto the show in 1986. She joined the other teenagers to show off their moves and even earned some screen time for one-on-one interviews with hosts. During one episode, Ripa shared some advice on dating etiquette. “If a guy wants to pay, he can pay, but they should alternate,” she said.

 

 

Joe Ripa

If you think you recognize Joe Ripa, you’re probably right. The Camden City native’s Jersey roots run deep, just like his daughter’s. The war veteran graduated from Camden High School, attended Rutgers University, served as a Trustee for Camden County College and sustained a career in Camden County transportation before moving to local politics. After serving as Camden County Freeholder from January 2004 to June 2009, Ripa was appointed Camden County Clerk and continues to hold the position today.

May 2017
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