When I meet Ripa in her dressing room after she's been dragged through the obstacle course on Strahan's back (they lost), it's as if she'd spent the hour since we met processing our encounter. "Ripa, who grew up in Stratford, New Jersey, and was a high school cheerleader, moved to New York City at 19.
Ripa tells me that lately she's been receiving complaints from viewers who claim to be able to see her nipples through her clothes. Ripa and Strahan bound onto the stage to pumping music and dance in place before settling into their chairs.
"I've come out on the air and addressed it," she says. Next to me is a group of friends who look to be in their forties. " says one of the women, dressed in a leopard-print blouse and cowboy boots. " says another, who has her nails manicured in black.
"She smoked back then, and obviously I don't think smoking is cool now, but when you're 24…she was a really, really sexy smoker." After dating for a year, the couple eloped to Las Vegas; they had their firstborn, Michael, a year later.
Ripa was only 30 when she was asked to try out for the chair vacated in 2000 by Kathie Lee Gifford, for whom she'd filled in a few times.
"I will say that it was the longest breast exam I've ever had," she adds. The flirtation is so seamless, so skillfully choreographed that, even though I've watched Ripa do it on TV for the past decade, I don't realize it happened until after I leave."A lot of people don't listen to the people they're talking to," says CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who counts Ripa among his close friends.
"But Kelly, she picks up on everything, and she makes fun of herself, which, in TV, not a lot of people can do in a genuine way." According to Michael Gelman, the show's executive producer for 25 years, "Kelly is very quick, very funny, very likable, and very self-deprecating.That she manages to do this without appearing arrogant or embarrassed is perhaps why Ripa has been able to win over not just those looking for wholesome morning entertainment, but the culturally sophisticated, too.It's a tonal dexterity that confounds other hosts—in 2012, Ann Curry was ousted from after just a year as cohost for failing to connect with her audience—but one that seems to come easily to Ripa: She's a wife and mother of three who loves box wine, boardwalks, and Uggs, but she's also a So Ho resident who gets tattooed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; takes family vacations with Cooper (recently, to Croatia); and, as I will soon learn, can reference HBO's Girls without seeming affected.On the show, Ripa favors colorful, playful pieces from designers such as Stella Mc Cartney, Erdem, and Isabel Marant."We try to keep with her personality—kind of flirty, kind of daytime," Cromas says. Let's all just calm down."Out in the studio, mothers and daughters, as well as a handful of retirement-age men, have already taken their seats.She is, in other words, a regular girl with an unexpected cool.