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Ricki Lake

RICKI PAMELA LAKE was born in Hastings-On-Hudson, New York, on September 21st, 1968. Although born slightly overweight, Lake never had a real problem growing up fitting in with the crowd. Outside of her friends at school, Lake and her family went out every Sunday to amusement parks, and ate a lot of food. "It's funny because we have all these pictures of Ricki eating popcorn, Ricki eating an ice cream cone," said Jennifer, Lake's sister. "She's always been comfortable in her own skin." It was always a constant battle between Lake and her sister to see who weighed more. Ricki Lake always knew from a young age that she wanted to be in the public eye. Growing up, Lake took singing lessons for ten years, acting lessons, and mastered a number of musical instruments. As well, she starred in a number of plays at several schools. Her favorite was in a school play entitled, "Don't Tell Mama". Her favorite was in a school play entitled, "Don't Tell Mama". Ricki's parents, Barry, who owned his own pharmacy, and mother Jill, a house wife, weren't very enthusiastic about her being in the television industry. Ricki's mom tried to stray her away, however, her grandmother Sylvia inspired her to follow her dreams. Every Sunday, Sylvia took her to see Broadway shows including "Little House on the Prairie", and Ricki's favorite, "Annie". When Sylvia passed away in 1978 from breast cancer, Lake was upset knowing she had lost one of the most influential people in her life. Ironically, the film that would change Ricki's whole career, "Hairspray", came out exactly ten years to the day that Sylvia died. Lake felt her grandmother was watching over her ever since. "It's strange, but I do feel her presence," remarked Lake in a 1998 interview for Lifetime.

Ricki first attended Hastings Elementary School, and then moved on to Farragut Middle School. Two years later, she transferred to The Professional Children's School, in New York City, where she continued to perfect herself as an actress. After completing high school, Lake enrolled at Ithaca College in upstate New York. After one year, she took a leave of absence, to get better in her acting career. Her 1st year, as she calls it was a "disaster". She made a deal with her mother that if she didn't become successful in showbiz within six months, she would go back to school the following year. During the last couple of weeks during this period, Lake got a call from her agent, telling her to audition for an upcoming movie by cult film director John Waters. Lake did the audition, and even still after some time, she never heard a word. Nearing the end of the summer, Lake got another call. This time, the call was from Waters. He thought Lake would do an excellent job at playing Tracy Turnblad. Waters, (who gave Ricki a role in the movie Cecil B. Demented [2000]), says that Ricki always read the lines exactly the way he wanted to, not even having to direct her. At the audition, there was another girl slightly heavier than herself. Lake was relieved when she got word that the girl wasn't getting the part.

Ricki never went back to college; after all, it was her "disaster year". "I'm glad I got the opportunity, and thank god I didn't have to go back," Ricki commented. With all the money from Hairspray, and her strive to continue to succeed in Hollywood, Ricki decided to move to Los Angeles, where she bought a house in the Hollywood Hills for $750,000. She later regretted the decision, although she looked at it as a learning curve in her life. "I had no business buying that house. I was very young, what did I need a big house like that for?," said Lake. "I'm glad it turned out the way it did."

Ricki Lake, who so recently had captivated millions of fans around the world was now encountering what would be the beginning of problems that would both hinder and help her in the process of succeeding her goals. Although Lake was heavy enough for the lead role in Hairspray, her dancing lessons were making her lose weight. "They called it fat patrol. They were feeding me Dove bars. They had continuity people saying, 'you gotta eat, you gotta eat'," remarked Lake. After Hairspray, Lake kept gaining weight and soon weighed over 200 lbs. Her weight, in the beginning, however, didn't work against her, it worked for her. Lake has referred to her obesity at this time in her life as her "gimmick". "I think in this business you need a gimmick. It's like, okay, what makes you different from everybody else?," remarked Lake. "I think for a long time it was that I was you know, funny, and cute, and because I had all these qualities, it worked for a number of years."

In the later years, this "gimmick" would fail, and essentially put a hold on Ricki's acting career. Lake was having problems finding roles because of her weight. "It became a point in her life where she crossed the line," Ricki's mother, Jill stated on A&E's Biography in 1999. "She was starting to lose roles because of her obesity." By this time, around 1990, Lake's agents could hardly get any movies for her to film because she was too heavy. "I think after a while, it was like 'Oh, well we know Ricki, and she's not right for this. I think I needed to change the gimmick," said Lake.

Even though Ricki was discouraged that her agents weren't returning her calls, she still managed to get in a few more television shows and movies. One was a part in the TV sitcom in ABC's China Beach, and the other was a part in Paramount's TV series "Starting Now". Unfortunately, her weight seemed to be the reason why she lost both parts. After one season, Ricki's roll in "China Beach" was written out, and she suspects it was because of her weight since she was never told why. After one airing, "Starting Now" was also canceled, because it had received bad reviews. "There is something about this business that is so cold," remarked Lake. "When you're hot you’re hot, but when you're not, man is it cold."

Although Lake's success in Hollywood was seemingly coming to an end because of her weight, her agents were still able to get her a part in "Working Girl" starring Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford, and a small part in "Cookie". Another John Waters movie Ricki got was a part as an overweight woman in the movie "Cry-Baby" with Johnny Depp; Lake's part only emphasized her weight. Soon, the offers stopped coming in. Lake now weighed over 260lbs. "I never got on a scale, but I'm estimating I was 260-270," said Lake. Ricki continued to use food to escape her depression. Months without work, and not being able to pay the next month's rent, the bank got ownership of the house, and Lake was forced to move out.

Lake then moved in to a small residence in the Hollywood Hills she described as "seedy". Lake moved in with Anne Kline who to her was like an Aunt. Although living with a roommate, she continued to find it difficult to be on her own, but still was determined to make it in Hollywood. "My parents were on the other side of the country, my sister was in College, and I was all on my own," Lake said.

Ricki Lake gets in shape and looks fabulous

She decided it was time to get in shape. One day, she took out all the junk food out of the fridge, and stuck a paper on her fridge reminding her of what to eat. "You open up Ricki's fridge, and there is no junk food in there," commented James Baggett, a friend of Lake's that interviewed her in 1993 for Interview magazine. Then by working out and going on a diet, she lost over 100 lbs in just six months. Not only by exercising and dieting, but sometimes, literally not eating for days straight. Although it worked for her, Lake doesn't recommend starving to anyone. Most nutritionists and health experts also agree that when you starve, your body goes into hibernation mode. "I really didn't do it the healthiest way. I fainted in a couple stores, I really wasn't well." Then she got a trainer, Art Clyde, and went three times a week to the gym to work out, and she started dropping weight. "It was like my body was just ready to get rid of it; I started noticing the difference."

Ricki was looking fabulous, and had all the confidence she needed to get back on track in show business, and sure enough her weight loss paid off. Hearing about an audition for a new daytime-talk show, Lake decided to try out for the show so she could pay for the next month's rent. "Well, why wouldn't I? I needed the money. They offered me $5,000. When you need that money to put food in your mouth... I really didn't have a choice," Lake stated. The pilot was shot in New York City in September of 1992. Six months later, after not hearing a word from producers, after carefully reviewing all of the 100+ candidates, former executive producer Gail Steinberg, and co-creator Garth Ancier, chose Ricki Lake as host of the show. "As we neared the end of pilot season, we knew we had to start soon or we'd have to put it off for a year. We said, let's start with Ricki. We didn't know if she could do it because hosting a talk-show is a really difficult job, and she awed us," stated Gail Steinberg.

Lake moved to New York City in 1993, to start taping "The Ricki Lake Show" , a program that would take topics from the perspective of the young audience; topics which weren't being done by other shows at that time the show premiered. Daytime talk-shows back then included the now-canceled "Sally Jessy Raphael" "Jenny Jones", "Phil Donahue", and the current "Maury Povich", and daytime chat queen "Oprah".

The show's new style of topics geared to a young audience, the audience's energy, young guests, and new elements to the show (e.g.: street cam), as well as the show's anything-goes attitude, helped soar "Ricki Lake" to the top of the ratings chart. It was mainly the unique combination of topics taken from the view of the young demographic that helped the show gain its popularity. "Where Sally Jessy Raphael might do a show, 'I hate the way my daughter dresses', "Ricki" would take that topic, and by aging it down would do, 'My mom gives me a hard time about the way I dress'," said Steinberg. "So, we take it from the view of the young person." It didn't take long before Lake's youthful audience got into the show. "Ricki Lake" would soon become one of the fastest rising talk-shows in history, and was the first program to beat ratings rival Oprah Winfrey in specific demographic categories.

Looking back, Lake remembers thinking that the show wouldn't last. Jokingly on an appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman, Letterman agreed stating "Do we really need another talk show? What do we need another one of those for?." "I didn't think it would last five weeks. Even the executive producers, who have been doing television for years, were surprised," said Lake. "We went to a convention where companies try to sell next year's programs. Everyone was out trying to copy "Ricki Lake". You can't do six or seven 'Ricki Lake's', you can only do about one or two," stated Ancier, co-creator of the show.

Although the success of her show was huge, it had a downside to it. Media critics and politicians began attacking her show, blaming her and the producers for the exploitation of its guests, and starting a new genre: "Trash TV". "Years one and two I was second coming, but by year three, I was responsible for the demise of our country, and young people," said Lake. The co-creator of Empower America, William J. Bennett, and Senator Joe Lieberman, tried to get advertisers to pull out from the talk-shows -- and some of them did. "Almost 650,000 kids regularly watching The Ricki Lake Show which is one of the worst offenders," said Lieberman. "In the case of William Bennett, realistically, he was looking for some headlines. He was looking to be the vice-nominee of the Republican party. There was no real reason for him to do this," stated Ancier.

Lake fought back by saying politicians such as Bennett don't watch the whole show, their facts weren't true, and she's proud to give everyone a voice. "These politicians don't watch our show from start to finish; they don't see that we have the expert come on in segment five to talk about how these people can turn their lives around for the better. "They didn't watch our show. They went on perception, and their own perception and because we were the front runner of all of these clones that came in, they pointed fingers at us," said Lake. "It did hurt because you want to feel proud of the show that you do, and a lot of what they were saying just wasn't true. We never had phony guests on our stage (the show employs a fact checker), we never did stories that were simply to shock people. We always had a reason behind every story that we did, so it was a bit of a bummer, but we're still working to change the perception." In 1993, the 1st year the program officially launched, Lake explained to Knight-Ridder Newspaper how her show works. "We do not do exploitive issues. We don't put people on the stage to make fun of them. They're up there to tell their stories. We don't do freaks or transsexuals or transvestites just so we can laugh at them."

Amid the political swings, Lake and her producers fought back. In its 4th season, the show reopened with more on-air experts, after-care, and more topics that influenced its guests, and audience in positive ways. Although fights were usually cut out in previous years, even the disclaimer cautioning parents about the possibility of mature subject matter was dropped. There was no longer fighting allowed on the show, and nearly episode retained its TVPG rating ever since.

The show's unprecedented success, Ricki's fame, and weight loss had suddenly re-opened the doors that were once closed for her agents to get her back to her acting roots. Of course, producers of her talk-show hoped people who didn't watch the show, would remember her from seeing the movie. Producers of her movies hoped fans from her talk-show would watch the movie because she was in it.

In 1994, Lake took the part in the movie "Serial Mom", as the daughter of a family whose neighborhood is distraught about a serial killer, along with Kathleen Turner. In 1996, Lake, along with Shirley McLaine and Brendan Fraser, starred in the movie "Mrs. Winterbourne", shot in Toronto, Ontario. In 1998, Lake played the lead role in "Disney's Murder She Purred: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery", and a small role in John Waters "Cecil B. Demented", which was released in September of 2000. Lake's starring role in a non-fiction movie entitled "The West Memphis Three", is currently under question. Lake's role is that of a mother of three young boys who didn't get a fair trial. Lake was unexpectantly taken off the credits list on the IMDB.com website. A star in the movie could not give details as to why her name was taken off, but he did tell Planet Ricki Lake has already finished her role in the film." The movie is set to be released sometime in late 2004.

Ricki Lake and her dream man

Just after Lake started taping the show, Ricki found who she then thought was the man of her dreams. She had gone to a Halloween party in 1993, where she met artist/illustrator, Rob Sussman. "I never believed in love at first site until I met him," she said. Ricki thought he was also the perfect guy, not attracted to her wealth, since he had no idea she was famous. "He had no clue about the show. When I told him, he said 'What's it called Ricki?'...which was great. I met him at the perfect time in my life," said Lake. Ricki and Rob were supposed to go for dinner after the party, but they forgot, and as she told everyone, they ended up in their hotel room. "I don't know how but I swear the instant I saw him, I knew this was the man I was going to marry," remarked Ricki.

Lake and Sussman had problems in their marriage such as money, and dealing with Lake being in the public eye. Just after their pre-nuptials, Lake and Sussman attended marriage therapy. She remained optimistic. They went through counseling and therapy to deal with the issues celebrity and fortune had placed on their marriage at times. Ricki says it helped them tremendously. "I believe therapy can really help," said Lake. "A lot of times we go to events and parties, and people shake his hand, and they're looking at me. They're not even acknowledging him, and that hurts."

In 1994, Lake and Sussman, and many other celebrities participated in an anti-fur protest. Her compassion for animal rights spawned a spark when asked if she would participate. "I think it's totally uncool to wear fur on your back," said Lake. Ricki and the rest of the crowd placed stickers, and signs saying "Karl Kills" in Karl Lagerfeld's office, a well-known fur place. Lake and her husband were sentenced to 24 hours of jail time, and community service feeding aids patients. "We were really doing it for all the right reason. I was not thinking of myself," remarked Lake. "I had no idea I'd be the top story on the 11 o'clock news. I had no idea the power I had had. It had nothing to do with gaining publicity, at that time I didn't need it." Currently a member of PETA (www.petaonline.org) for several years, Lake continues to spread the word about animals’ rights through a PSA she produced concerning dogs left outside in the heat, and showing up at PETA's annual conventions.

Four months after Ricki and Rob met each other, Rob asked her to marry him. Lake had a private wedding in Los Angeles, with very few guests. Three years later, they decided that they were ready to start a family. Lake and her husband flew to Paris, where they were hoping they would be able to start a family. It only took one time for Ricki to get pregnant. "I remember Ricki saying she was going to get pregnant. I said 'good luck'. It should only be that easy for everybody. And yet first try, literally only Ricki. It was like a ringer," remarked Jennifer, Lake's sister.

On March 22, 1997, Milo Sebastian Sussman was born. Although hoping to have a natural home birth, Lake went into a 30 hour labor which wouldn't progress. “He has profoundly changed my life. I think about him more than anything. I don't want him being taught by some tutor while I make a movie. I really don't want to take him away from his social life, and that's a choice I'm making for my son," remarked Lake.

Lake revealed the news on ABC's The View in September, 2001 that she was pregnant again. On Monday, June 18th, 2001, Owen Tyler Sussman was born. Owen weighed in at 8 pounds, 7 ounces. "My son wanted a sister. Milo adores him to death," Ricki exclaimed. Lake had a whole new nursery set up backstage at her talk-show studio so she could spend quality time with Owen between breaks and show tapings.

At one point in Lake's life, she thought she wanted to be a movie star; ever since the birth of Milo, Lake has told everyone she has other aspirations. "Having a child turns your world upside down. My goals in life have changed drastically since the second he landed on this planet." More than seven years ago, Lake said she wanted to go back to school to study architecture. However, in 1999 in an interview with Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee, Lake said she wants to become a midwife. "I'm certainly happy to do the show for a number of more years, but once that chapter is closed, I want to do something else." It was only about a year later, and that "something else" would be a certified doula; Lake has helped deliver several babies for pregnant women wanting to have a natural home birth.

New mom Ricki Lake helps community and charity

Although frequently active in the community, after becoming a new mom, Lake has helped even more charities and organizations. In 1998, Lake was the keynote speaker of World Wide Aids Day; Lake participated at a high school moderating a discussion on HIV and Aids. In October 2000, citing news of a friend's diagnosis with breast cancer, Lake walked 60 miles in 3 days for the "Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk Crusade" to raise money for breast cancer. "It really hit home to know someone my age can be diagnosed with breast cancer. It made me want to get involved, and do something." Lake repeated the cause in October 2002, again taking place in New York City. Lake's grandmother passed away in 1978 from breast cancer. In February 2002, Ricki performed in a play entitled "The Vagina Monologues", spreading the message about violence against women. In June 2003 and 2004, Lake attended a celebrity carnival benefiting the Elizabeth Galser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Ricki also raised funds in 2000 for "The Tonight Is Gala" in New York City for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Her frequent charity events for kids, including "The Elizabeth Glaser Pedatric AIDS Foundation's Kids for Kids Celebrity Carnival" puts her in the spotlight for helping young people. In addition, she continues to work with The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy as she has for the past four years. Lake produced ten PSA's for The National Campaign, with ads shown on television shows, and on websites. There were also several ads from Lake that were featured in newspapers, and magazines -- all urging teens to "either don't have sex at all, or use protection every single time."

In 2000, Lake also joined forces with Project Cuddle, an organization which helps teens that are pregnant, and are considering abandoning their babies. The organization helps mothers with free counseling, prenatal care, and anything else they need to keep themselves, and their unborn babies out of harms way. Lake's commitment to Project Cuddle has helped save the lives of over 150 babies since they joined.

In 2001, Lake celebrated her 1500th show on Monday, May 14th, 2001. The show looked back at past outrageous stories, hilarious flash-backs, and emotional moments from the past eight years of the show. "My eyes literally started flooding with tears," executive producer Gail Steinberg recalls." "I credit the success to Ricki's involvement to social issues, and her compassion."

The summer of 2002 was another whirlwind for Ricki Lake. Turning down a movie offer, Lake decided to devote the whole summer to slimming down, and try to get rid of some of the weight gained in her recent pregnancy. She spent most of her summer on the treadmill, and working out. By running, jogging, and exercising seven days a week, Lake lost 35 pounds over the summer. "Now I can say I'm a runner, jogger, actor, singer, and talk-show host!," said Lake.

Ricki Lake wants more acting than talking

Lake told The New York Post on April 23rd, 2003 that she was moving to California in early spring of that year, in hopes of finding "that next big thing". Lake made the move to California after the 10th season of her daytime talk show "Ricki Lake" wrapped up and was on hiatus. She traveled to New York City weekly to continue taping her show in August 2003, when the series began taping shows for its 11th season in syndication which premiered on September 15th, 2003.

The 11th season continued to expand on the show's new approach to examine edgy topics from an unbiased perspective which began in season 10 - while still keeping surprising elements that have been a staple of the series since its inception in 1993. "Taking the show out on the streets of New York (where the show is taped) and really interacting with everyday people, getting their opinions on topics from sex to dating to weight was an integral part of last season and was truly fascinating."

Production of "Ricki Lake" was originally supposed to cease in January, but it was extended till February 19th, 2004. Lake's contract agreement with distributor Sony Pictures Television was up in 2004 from a 4-year deal signed by Lake in 2000. Although Sony Pictures Television had stations signed up for a 12th season, Lake chose not to renew her contract sighting she wanted to spend more time with her family, was tired of the commute to New York City, and was hoping to get a boost in her acting career. Lake was offered the possibility to star in an upcoming sitcom for the fall of 2004 with CBS. The CBS project, in which Lake was supposed to play the role of working at a bar and being a mother, was not picked up along with a dozen of other sitcoms (Full Story), and there's no word if Lake would have continued another season with the show if she would have known the project wouldn't be picked up. Many fans contend that Lake herself was simply "out of steam" this season. Although still being an excellent host, she didn't seem as into the show as in past seasons.

Ricki Lake, her two children and her boyfriend, Apollo Yiamouyiannis, currently reside in Los Angeles, California.

In Her Words

"When you're hot you're hot, but when you're not, man is it cold!"


Five Things You Must Know About Ricki Lake


Lake lost 115 pounds in 36 months.

This vegetarian is heavily involved with the animal rights group PETA.

She has two sons, Milo and Owen.

She suffers from adult-onset asthma.

She is a childhood friend of Debbie Gibson's.



The Divine Ms. Lake

From indie movie queen to one of daytime's favorite hosts, Ricki Lake has us all chanting "Go, Ricki!"

Before Ricki Lake became a Gen-X TV talk show staple, she was the screen daughter of Divine — the late (and large) drag queen and star of the John Waters film "Hairspray." But long before her 1988 film debut, Lake knew she'd one day be in the spotlight, although as a kid she thought for sure that the spotlight would shine on a famed singer, not a movie-cum-talk-show star.

But after attending The Professional Children's School in New York City, her focus quickly turned to acting. Later, during her freshman year final exams at Ithaca College, she received the fateful call. Her agent had arranged for her to audition for the now indie classic "Hairspray." A week later the role was hers: Tracy Turnblad, a rock 'n' roll-obsessed teen who helps break the racial barriers of a pre-Beatles Baltimore while shaking it up on the latest, craziest local dance show.

Following a handful of television and film appearances (including "Working Girl"), Lake landed a recurring role of Holly the Donut Dolly on "China Beach." But when she was let go from the hit drama after just one year, she found out how hard it was to get hired in an industry where being skinny rules. By then, she had ballooned to 250 pounds.

When Lake went vegetarian and adopted and adhered to the old rules — eat right and exercise — she ended up shedding more than 125 pounds. And soon, her phone rang again. "It was like winning the lottery," she says of her becoming the host of the self-named talk show. The show exploded into a hit and Lake was back in action.

Since taking the mike, she's talked openly about her weigh loss, her marriage and the birth of her son, Milo Sebastian. But don't think she's forgotten about her acting dream. Since the 1993 debut of "Ricki Lake," we've seen her on the big screen ("Serial Mom," "Cabin Boy," "Mrs. Winterbourne") and small screen alike. And her latest venture lands her right back where she started, with John Waters in "Cecil B. DeMented."

 

Ricki Lake's 10 Reasons to Talk about Teen Pregnancy


10. Money.
Teen pregnancy costs taxpayers $7 billion annually.

9. You'll be in it alone.
Eight out of 10 teenage boys do not marry their baby's mother.

8. Four out of every 10 girls you know.
That's how many girls become pregnant each year in the United States.
Your life.
7. Teenagers need to be aware that having a baby is a lifetime commitment from which they can never walk away.

6. Pregnancy doesn't discriminate.
Any teen who practice unsafe sex could become a parent, regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

5. Empowerment.
Educating teens about teen pregnancy empowers them to make informed choices about their bodies and their future.

4. Single motherhood.
Young mothers raising babies on their own face specific financial and emotional hardships.

3. Once is not enough.
Teenagers need to be aware that they either need to abstain or use protection every single time.

2. You gotta talk about it.
Candid dialogue about sex and its repercussions makes a difference.

1. Reality.
Babies born to teen mothers can face special health and developmental challenges. Life for teen parents is never the same after their babies are born.


Ricki Lake promotes the first National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Talk show diva Ricki Lake has heard it all from teenagers for nearly a decade. Now she wants them to listen as she explains the harsh realities of teen pregnancy.

In an effort to promote the first annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Lake and a group of teen moms will air it all out on The Ricki Lake Show on Wednesday.

"It's important that girls who are even thinking of having a baby hear what it's really going to be like from girls who have already been there," says Lake.

Sponsored by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (NCPTP), Lake hopes her show, public service announcements, postcards and billboards fortify the awareness day.

"Young people really need to have all the info," says Lake. "And so do their parents, because the statistics are pretty shocking."

• "Four out of 10 girls become pregnant at least once before the age of 20," says Lake, referring to a 1998 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

• A sexually active teen girl who is not using protection has a 90% chance of pregnancy within one year, says the NCPTP.

• These chances rise each year. Approximately 8% of 14 year olds, 18% of 15–17 year olds and 22% of 18–19 year olds become pregnant each year, according to Sex and America's Teenagers, a 1998 Alan Guttmacher Institute study.

According to the NCPTP, these figures combine to give the USA the highest rates of teen pregnancy, birth, and abortion in the western industrialized world.

Sex, love and pregnancy form a complex and tough-to-figure matrix for many teens. One Harris study asked teens why they have sex and found their answers center on pressure from others, pleasure, rebellion, curiosity and a variety of love issues — expressing love, a lack of understanding it and the need to be loved.

Lake suggests another possibility. "I've been doing my show for nine years and I think they're bored, and maybe live in small towns where not much is going on outside of school or their day-to-day stuff."

"We need to empower kids and they need to see a future for themselves," adds Lake. "That was the big saving grace for me — I was completely consumed with becoming a performer. That was my M.O. and there was no time for getting drunk with boys in the parking lot or having sex because it would have got in the way of my goal."

Lake has a very well-defined goal for rudderless teens who are having sex. "If you're going to play, play safe and use protection," says Lake. That would appear to help a lot: one study found that 78% of teen pregnancies were unplanned.

"We need to convince kids to either have less sex or use contraception more," says Sarah Brown, director of the NCPTP. "Those are the only direct ways to reduce teen pregnancy."

"Telling teens to abstain just doesn't work," notes Lake. "Kids are having sex, and that's the reality."

Although abstinence may not last forever, it may not have to. "For example, if we can get kids to delay having sex from the average of 16 years to 18, that would probably help," says Brown. "We want lower exposure, which would include reducing the both frequency and number of partners."

Programs that prevent

Programs that are tied to marked reduction in teen pregnancies have three things in common, notes Brown:

• Time and intensity — In schools, successful programs go on for a long period of time and "tend to be intense," says Brown. "You can't expect kids to sit down for an hour or two and change their behavior."

• Clear instruction — "Giving kids lots of information doesn't necessarily give them direction," says Brown. "Instead of handing them a bunch of pamphlets it's better to say, as an example, ‘the best choice for you is abstinence and here's why.'"

• Interaction — "Getting teens into role-playing, interviewing others — and parents — and getting their information not just in rows of desks helps a lot," says Brown. "They already receive massive amounts of information — the issue is to get them to use what they have learned. That's interaction."

Extracurricular service seems to help in communities where school sex education is banned or limited. "Not much is said about sex," says Brown. "But they have curricula, adult mentors, a lot of classroom time tied to service ethics and a sense of achievement. You're surrounded with caring adults who help you with skills, regard you as valuable and assist you in making valuable use of time."

But many areas don't offer either effective school-based or community-driven programs.

So no matter where a teen is located, they can log onto the NCPTP's extensive Web site and take an interactive quiz specifically designed for them. The quiz is available for the next two weeks.

Her show and the quiz, Lake says, "are great ways to begin the process and help prevent babies having babies."

 

The Divine Ms. Ricki Lake


From indie movie queen to one of daytime's favorite hosts, Ricki Lake has us all chanting "Go, Ricki!"

Before Ricki Lake became a Gen-X TV talk show staple, she was the screen daughter of Divine — the late (and large) drag queen and star of the John Waters film "Hairspray." But long before her 1988 film debut, Lake knew she'd one day be in the spotlight, although as a kid she thought for sure that the spotlight would shine on a famed singer, not a movie-cum-talk-show star.

But after attending The Professional Children's School in New York City, her focus quickly turned to acting. Later, during her freshman year final exams at Ithaca College, she received the fateful call. Her agent had arranged for her to audition for the now indie classic "Hairspray." A week later the role was hers: Tracy Turnblad, a rock 'n' roll-obsessed teen who helps break the racial barriers of a pre-Beatles Baltimore while shaking it up on the latest, craziest local dance show.

Following a handful of television and film appearances (including "Working Girl"), Lake landed a recurring role of Holly the Donut Dolly on "China Beach." But when she was let go from the hit drama after just one year, she found out how hard it was to get hired in an industry where being skinny rules. By then, she had ballooned to 250 pounds.

When Lake went vegetarian and adopted and adhered to the old rules — eat right and exercise — she ended up shedding more than 125 pounds. And soon, her phone rang again. "It was like winning the lottery," she says of her becoming the host of the self-named talk show. The show exploded into a hit and Lake was back in action.

Since taking the mike, she's talked openly about her weigh loss, her marriage and the birth of her son, Milo Sebastian. But don't think she's forgotten about her acting dream. Since the 1993 debut of "Ricki Lake," we've seen her on the big screen ("Serial Mom," "Cabin Boy," "Mrs. Winterbourne") and small screen alike. And her latest venture lands her right back where she started, with John Waters in "Cecil B. DeMented."

US talk show host Ricki Lake is visiting South Africa

Lake arrived in Cape Town on Sunday to promote her talk show, The Ricki Lake Show, which is aired on e.tv in the afternoon. Her dark, short hair has made way for longer, lighter hair.

Lake says she is gloriously happy and has a fantastic life - her two sons, aged seven and three, have adapted well after her divorce two years ago and there is a new "Greek god" in her life.
This man is Apollo Yiamouyiannis and she has a "very special" relationship with him. Yiamouyiannis has accompanied Lake to South Africa.

Her talk show mainly deals with relationships - something she believes every person can relate to. She sees drugs, abuse and teenage pregnancy as important issues.

Each of the 2 000 programmes recorded over the past 11 years influenced Lake's life in some way. She admits that her biggest issue in her personal life is her weight. Her weight has fluctuated over the past ten years. At the start of her television career, she lost 57kg, but after her second pregnancy, she picked up nearly as much. She has managed to lose some of this excess weight but those extra 10kgs are still bothering her.

Her career as an actress has taken a backseat. "It may sound boring, but my children come first. I do not accept work away from home and I will also not take them out of school for my work. Work must fit in with motherhood." Her last role on the silver screen was in Mrs Winterbourne in 1996.

This is her first visit to South Africa and she plans to take in as much as possible - a visit to Table Mountain on Tuesday, the penguins at Boulder's Beach and a visit to a game farm in Mpumalanga later this week feature on her agenda.

Ricki's Real-life 'War of the Roses'

Ricki Lake's nasty custody battle with her ex-husband Rob Sussman is getting ugly. "CJ" has obtained legal documents that open the door to a world of marital discord during the couple's nine-and-a-half year union. The situation was so bad that, at one time, neutral monitors had to be hired to referee the couple at their palatial Los Angeles home.

Family law attorney Shari Dunn helped "CJ" put the bitter allegations in perspective, characterizing the situation as, "A real life 'War of the Roses.'"

In court papers, Sussman accuses Lake of hysterical ranting and raving, and claims that she was often over-stimulated by the drugs she uses for weight control. Meanwhile, Lake asks the court to prevent Sussman from driving their children in a motor vehicle because of his numerous accidents. In the documents, Sussman admits to past substance abuse problems, but insists he's been sober for seven months.

Sussman charges Lake with using bad judgment by subjecting their son, Milo, to appearances on Ricki's talk show. "At the time he may have agreed to it," Dunn explained. "It's only in retrospect, now, that he's saying it's bad parenting."

In the document, Sussman also argues that he gave up film school and his career because Lake convinced him they had plenty of money, but remember, Sussman signed a pre-nup. "At the time, he was giving up his right," Dunn told us. "And if he fully agreed to that, it's hard to get out of that."

Lake further charges Sussman with constantly lurking about and using a video tape recording to document her every move. High-profile private investigator Scott Ross was in the home to protect Lake, according to the papers. He's done work for stars like Robert Blake, Sly Stallone and currently Michael Jackson. In the documents, Ross states that Sussman tried to intimidate him by videotaping the investigators' moves.

Most likely the courts will order the couple to try and mediate their custody issues, but it won't be easy. As Dunn noted, "These are people who have really gone over the limit of their anger and unhappiness with each other."

Talk show host Ricki Lake is the clear winner in her bitter divorce battle in Los Angeles. She and her husband Rob Sussman have been married for ten years. But a California judge is upholding a prenuptial agreement, which means Lake keeps everything, and Sussman walks with nothing.

 

 

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