Tragic Details About Kelly Ripa's Life You Never Knew

Kelly Ripa is more or less the homecoming queen of daytime TV. Her girl-next-door looks, her self-deprecating sense of humor, and her effortless rapport with celebrity guests have made her a fan favorite since she began her stint as co-host of "Live!" in 2001. When she became morning TV stalwart Regis Philbin's co-host, Ripa went from soap opera darling to talk show royalty. Throughout the years, Ripa has worked with various co-hosts, including her husband, Mark Consuelos, and she has always maintained a sunny disposition.

Though she has a dream career, beautiful family, and a billion-dollar smile, Ripa's life hasn't always been so cheery. Between debilitating anxiety, health scares within her family, unfair treatment in the workplace, and losing beloved friends, the television veteran has endured a lot. Read on to find out how the talk show host pushed past difficult obstacles to find peace, balance, and her hard-earned shine.

A health scare sent Kelly Ripa to the hospital in 1997

In 1997, Kelly Ripa experienced a medical emergency that was as scary as it was embarrassing. According to her 2022 memoir, "Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories," Ripa was having sex with her husband, Mark Consuelos, when she passed out and woke up in the hospital. It turned out two ruptured ovarian cysts were the culprit, a phenomenon that is common, but can be frightening nonetheless.

Thankfully, Ripa was fine, but her pride took a hit, as her husband dressed her in a rather chaotic outfit in his haste to get her some help. Ripa and Consuelos have a loving, happy marriage, but apparently he isn't much help in the fashion department. In her memoir, Ripa recalled she was wearing a leotard, red Manolo Blahnik heels, and a pair of oversized warm-up pants when she woke up in the hospital. "[H]ere is my husband, who is, dare I say, stylish, well-dressed at all times, and yet he dressed me like a dime store prostitute in my time of need," Ripa wrote.

Her sister, Linda Ripa, survived a terrifying car accident

In 1999, Kelly Ripa's sister, Linda Ripa, was involved in a serious car accident. After her car was hit head-on by a speeding vehicle, Linda suffered many broken bones, including her pelvis. At the time, Linda was seven months pregnant, and her son went into a coma in utero. The baby was born nearly seven weeks premature. ”We don't know how it happened, but it did and, of course, we call him Miracle Baby,” Linda shared with The New York Times.

The accident left Linda with lingering medical issues, including chronic pain and a disfigured foot. "My mother is a 24-hour-a-day nurse to my sister," Kelly Ripa said in 2001, as noted in the New York Post. She went on to add that Linda's injuries had seriously impacted her quality of life. "She will never, ever know a normal life again. And there's nothing they can do," Kelly said.

Following the accident, both Kelly and Linda became involved in Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Kelly became the spokesperson for Tie One On For Safety. Linda went on to write a children's book, "The Ladybug Blues," which she wrote while convalescing. "I have a new career, writing and drawing," Linda told The New York Times, adding, "Sometimes you just have to make tragedy work for you."

Her early days on Live with Regis and Kelly were 'needlessly difficult'

Kelly Ripa was already a daytime TV fixture on "All My Children" before transitioning to the talk show world. Her fans were thrilled to see Ripa take over for Kathie Lee Gifford in the coveted role on "Live!" with co-host Regis Philbin, but her early days at the show were tough ones. For example, it took three seasons of co-hosting the show before Ripa had her own office space, and in the meantime she was relegated to a janitor's closet. "It didn't make a whole lot of sense, especially because there were empty offices that I could have easily occupied," Ripa told Variety.

During her first few years on the show, Ripa didn't have her own bathroom either, and had to use the same public bathroom as the "Live!" audience. Not only was it unfair, considering co-host Regis Philbin had his own private restroom, it was particularly unpleasant when Ripa was pregnant during filming. "We have a studio audience — like 250 people! — and I have to queue up. Particularly when I was pregnant, it was extraordinarily exhausting to have to wait in line ... It just seemed, you know, a very needlessly difficult situation," she shared with Variety.

Kelly Ripa experienced serious depression and anxiety

Kelly Ripa's fans know her to be bubbly and funny, the perfectly affable daytime host. However, Ripa has faced her fair share of mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. "I have a severe case of social anxiety disorder, and I tend to say awkward or inappropriate things when under duress," Ripa revealed in "Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories.".

Ripa also seemed to be struggling with depression, as she recalled telling her therapist, "I have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. ... I feel like I'm in physical pain. My hair hurts. I have no energy at all." She also spoke about feeling constantly distracted and overwhelmed, and recalled feeling like she had to cry more often than not. "I cry in the shower. I cry myself to sleep. I cry backstage. I sometimes want to cry in the middle of the show. Sometimes I feel like I can't breathe," she wrote.

Ripa credits therapy with helping her cope, and providing her with a healthier outlook on her busy life. What's more, her therapist encouraged her to look out for herself. As Ripa shared with People, "[S]he really taught me just how to be a better self advocate, how to think of things in a different way."

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Cancer has affected her friends and family

In 2011, Kelly Ripa partnered with appliance maker Electrolux for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, participating in a virtual sleepover event to raise money for ovarian cancer research. Cancer is something Ripa was all too familiar with, as it had touched the lives of several family members and friends. "The reason I got involved with Ovarian Cancer Research Fund is a close friend and neighbor of mine growing up died when she was younger than I am now of ovarian cancer and she never really even knew she was sick. She never knew she had the disease until it was too late," Ripa told Yahoo! in 2011.

Ripa also revealed that she and husband, Mark Consuelos, grappled with cancer within their families. "Both my mother and Mark's mother have both battled and overcome cancer," Ripa shared. Thankfully, both Camilla Consuelos and Esther Ripa survived the insidious disease, and Ripa continued her charity work to help others do the same. In 2015, she and designer Donna Karan hosted Super Saturday NY, a high-end garage sale and kids' carnival whose proceeds went to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

Kelly Ripa struggled with guilt over being a working mom

Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos share three kids: Michael, Lola, and Joaquin Consuelos. Ripa has spoken at length about her children throughout her tenure on "Live!" as she is clearly a very proud mom. But she has also dealt with feelings of guilt, as juggling her career and her family duties has often been a challenge. "I always feel guilty. I think every working mother does have that guilt about failing in some way," she told Yahoo! in 2011.

Luckily, Ripa learned to let herself off the hook and maintain a healthy acceptance of her guilty feelings. "[T]he way I've learned to sort of balance it is just by knowing that I'm going to fail everybody a little bit every day. Nobody's going to get hurt," she explained. "So, I just have to sort of relieve myself of feeling the pressure to do everything perfectly every day."

Another big help is her husband, Mark Consuelos, who Ripa praised for keeping family life running smoothly and being all about equal parenting. "We have consistency in our schedule. And I have to credit my husband with this, because ... he's always been extraordinarily organized, and he's really taught me how to simplify my life through organization."

She was hurt when Michael Strahan departed Live

From 2012 until 2016, Kelly Ripa shared hosting duties on "Live!" with former New York Giants football player Michael Strahan. The two sure seemed to have a solid bond in front of the cameras, as they had a strong rapport. However, Strahan's departure from the show was kept secret from Ripa, something that hurt her deeply.

As Ripa detailed in "Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories," executives at ABC had big plans for Strahan, placing him in a coveted hosting spot on "Good Morning America." The network was instructed to keep the switch under wraps, not even giving Ripa a heads-up, until Strahan's new contract was signed. The move was yet another difficulty Ripa had to endure as the female co-host of "Live!"

Writing about her experiences in her memoir, she revealed, "Had I known how difficult it would have been, I don't know that I would have gone for it. I just think my ignorance in that situation wound up being my blessing and my superpower. I did not have an easy time."

Kelly Ripa was devastated by Regis Philbin's death

Kelly Ripa's original "Live!" co-star was the legendary Regis Philbin. Although the two appeared to be thick as thieves, Philbin made it clear behind the scenes that he was the one in charge. In "Live Wire: Long-Winded Short Stories," Ripa wrote that when she was first offered the gig at "Live!," her agent included an "ominous" caveat: "They want you to know who your boss is."

Ripa and Philbin hosted the show together from 2001 until Philbin's exit in 2011, but it was not always easy for Ripa. "I don't want to feel like I'm slamming anyone or that I'm being disrespectful. But I also want people to know it was not a cakewalk," she shared in her memoir. More difficult still was the falling-out she and Philbin appeared to have following his departure from the show. In 2017, Philbin told Larry King he had not been in touch with Ripa, and said he thought she was "very offended" that he'd left; Ripa claimed that she had tried to reconnect with him, writing that the show had reached out many times. "You can't make a person befriend you," she wrote.

When Philbin died in 2020 at the age of 88, Ripa was heartbroken. When "Live!" paid tribute to Philbin, a tear Ripa said, "As people get older ... certain things are inevitable, and passing away is one of those things. But Regis is one of the people that we all believed, I think, would somehow figure out a way around the inevitable."

The death of her All My Children co-star John Callahan hit her hard

2020 was a difficult year for Kelly Ripa, as her close friend and "All My Children" co-star John Callahan also died. Ripa was candid about her loss during an episode of "Live!," telling co-host Ryan Seacrest, "I had a really bad weekend this weekend." She went on to detail her tight-knit relationship with Callahan and his family, revealing that Callahan's second wife, Eva LaRue, is her oldest son Michael's godmother. Additionally, Callahan's daughter and Ripa's daughter had become great friends. "I just want everyone to know, Eva and Kaya, that we are thinking of you, and we are just so sad and devastated," Ripa said.

Ripa spoke fondly about her former castmate, saying, "He was 66 years old, way too young to be taken from us." She referred to her friend as "a gentleman," and talked about his sense of humor. "[H]e would say the funniest things and we've all been, like, going through our brains about all of the funny 'Callahanisms' over the years." Ripa kept her composure, but apologized to viewers if she at all seemed off her game.

Kelly Ripa had concerns about her son's dyslexia and dysgraphia

Kelly Ripa has spoken about her family so frequently on "Live!" that audiences have basically witnessed her children grow up. In 2021, Ripa shared that she and Mark Consuelos were about to be empty nesters because their youngest child, Joaquin Consuelos, was preparing for college. This milestone was especially significant to the family, as Ripa's son had been diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia (which affects the ability to write), and had to work extra hard in school.

Ripa shared that her husband doubted college was in Joaquin's future. Understandably, Mark was emotional when Joaquin had multiple options to choose from when it came time to go to university. "Through hard work, determination, remediation, and again, I always say ... it can be quite a blessing," she said. "[K]ids with dyslexia learn how to read the room, they pick up on social cues ... their other skills become [stronger]." 

Joaquin ended up getting accepted by the University of Michigan, where he has gone on to have great success on the wrestling team. "We're such good wrestling parents that we just say whatever the parents sitting [nearby say]," Ripa joked on a 2022 episode of "Live!"

Her mother underwent heart surgery in 2022

In 2022, Kelly Ripa's mother, Esther Ripa, dealt with yet another health issue that required her to undergo heart surgery. Kelly spoke about the experience on "Live!" explaining that her mom was doing well, while expressing her gratitude for the healthcare workers she encountered during the ordeal. "[Y]ou don't really realize what gems hospital workers are," Kelly told co-host Ryan Seacrest. "Not just the surgeons and the physicians assistants, but those ICU nurses are just so special and so fabulous at allaying anybody's fears, anxieties and just keeping everyone in the know."

Kelly described the experience further, joking that her father had been asking her mother too many questions following the procedure, and that she had learned how to deal with these situations. "It's like being a trial lawyer, but you're in a hospital," she said. "'Are you hot? Are you cold? Do you want dad to stop talking?'"

On another episode of "Live!," Kelly spoke about the surprisingly great haircut her father gave her mother ahead of her heart surgery. Evidently, Esther just didn't want to have to deal with her hair, so she asked Kelly's father to give her a bob cut. "My dad has missed his calling as a hairstylist." she said.

Live with Kelly and Mark debuted to brutal criticism from fans

Kelly Ripa shared the "Live!" stage with Regis Philbin, Michael Strahan, and Ryan Seacrest, as well as many guest hosts throughout the years. In April of 2023, Ripa began working with yet another new co-host: her husband. Mark Consuelos, an actor whose past TV credits include "All My Children" and "Riverdale," seemed like the perfect match for Ripa, as fans loved seeing them together during times he was a guest host. 

However, when Consuelos became the official "Live!" host, things got off to a rocky start. Fans took to social media to air their opinions, and it was not pretty. "I can go to the mall and watch teenagers kiss LESS!!! THE BEGINNING OF THE END," one X (formerly Twitter) user declared; another wrote, "Remember the days with Regis, when REAL social & news issues were discussed? NOT 'bedtime eating & sleeping habits' ... or many other mundane things that were conversed about!" It was pretty harsh, but even Ripa herself admitted to Variety she'd had reservations about doing the show with her husband of 27 years. "We'd be the last people on earth to suggest ourselves to work together for anything," she said.

Still, the couple kept at it and in 2024, Ripa told ET she and Consuelos would be working together for the foreseeable future. "I've spent my life with him, I can do things with him for decades."