Kelly Ripa
Credit: ABC via Getty Images

It shouldn’t be this difficult to treat everyone with respect.

Kelly Ripa has been working in daytime for quite awhile. Though she officially replaced Kathy Lee Gifford in 2001 to join Regis Philbin as co-host of Live!, soap opera fans know that she’d first gotten her starts back in 1990 when, at just 20-years old, she joined All My Children as Hayley Vaughan. It was a role she’d play for the next 12 years and at the end Hayley left Pine Valley to syndicate her talk show in an echo of Ripa’s own move to Live!

And while Ripa has become a beloved television fixture, her career hasn’t, she tells our sister site Variety, always been easy. For one thing, she’s fought for fair pay from pretty much the earliest days of her soap journey.

ALL MY CHILDREN, Mateo Hayley Mark Consuelos, Kelly Ripa, 1970-2011. © ABC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Now-husband Mark Consuelos who played Hayley’s love Mateo starting in 1995, “was paid far more than I was paid,” she noted. “Always. And he started years after I started. It wasn’t until I got what we call my ‘fancy job’ that I started actually earning more money than him.”

And that atmosphere, she explained to Variety, didn’t end with All My Children. In some ways, instead, it just grew more pronounced once she joined Live! “I was used to that pay inequity because that was my life for 15 years,” she explained, “11 years on All My Children and then during the Regis years.”

That wasn’t a huge surprise, she made clear, seeing as how she knew Philbin had been at the show’s helm for almost a decade and a half by the time she joined. But it wasn’t just the disparity in pay, it was also “this weaponization of my salary, as though I somehow should not ask for the money that the men routinely earn. And I’ve earned it the hard way.”

Talk show host Regis Philbin and new co-host Kelly Ripa speak to the audience during a broadcast of "Live with Regis and Kelly," February 5, 2001

Things weren’t always as easy as they appeared onscreen.

Credit: Getty Images

And it wasn’t just money that she had to fight for. It was, in many ways, a battle just to be treated as an equal. Once Philbin left, she was elevated to the main host, but the show still reserved Philbin’s office for “’when the new guy comes.’” And that wasn’t flying for her — especially as, when she started, she wasn’t given paid vacation, maternity leave or even a bathroom! If she had to go, even when pregnant, she had to wait in line for the same public bathroom with the audience.

So by the time she was denied the office, Ripa “just moved my things. I forced my way into the office because I couldn’t understand how I would still be in the janitor’s closet and somebody new would come in and get the office.”

The new guy ended up being Strahan, of course — at least for the next four years until ABC shifted him to Good Morning America, intentionally keeping it a secret from Ripa until the contract was signed and the deal was done. By then, even the viewers knew things had gone horribly wrong as Ripa stepped back from Live! for several days before returning to talk about the need for respect in the workplace.

It was only after that, that the culture started to shift. Ripa tapped her longtime friend, Ryan Seacrest to join her, and in 2018, Debra O’Connell took over overseeing Live! — a change that the host credits for finally shifting the culture enough to start giving her the respect she feels she more than earned. Now, of course, with Seacrest on his way out, Consuelos is joining his wife as the new cohost, reuniting the couple on our screens in a way they haven’t really been since the long-past days of All My Children‘s Hayley and Mateo.

And hopefully now Ripa is fully getting the respect for which she’s long overdue.

Check out our photo gallery of All My Children‘s stars then and now