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Kelly Ripa Gets the Point


Having played Hayley Vaughan Santos for 12 years on All My Children, Kelly Ripa is now spreading her love to other people's children by connecting with the Point Foundation, the nation's largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBT students of merit. The Live! With Regis and Kelly star will join her good buddy, Bravo's Andy Cohen, in cohosting New York's Point Honors benefit, which will honor civil rights activist David Mixner, 30 Rock's Jane Krakowski, and Citigroup on April 19. After sharing the real story behind her and Cohen's now-infamous poolside photo shoot, Ripa looks back at the bright side of her Claymatic clash with Rosie O'Donnell -- and reveals her Pine Valley lesbian fantasy.

The Advocate: Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with The Advocate.
Kelly Ripa: Oh, please, it's my pleasure. I'm a fan.

How did you become involved with the Point Foundation?
I literally got an e-mail from them saying, "We'd love to have you cohost the Point Honors benefit with your friend Andy Cohen." I was like, "Are you serious?" Because I'm not good at that stuff. I know I host a talk show, but I get so nervous when I stand in front of people who didn't line up specifically to come to our studio. I feel like you have to be funny at award shows, but Andy was like, "No, we're going have fun!" And once I realized what's at stake, I really wanted to get involved. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't know anything about this cause, but it's a worthy organization and I'm thrilled that they would even consider me.

The Point Foundation aids LGBT teens who've been cut off by their parents or left behind by the school system because of their sexual orientation. As a mother, does this particular cause strike a personal chord?
It most certainly does. Being a kid is hard enough when you do feel accepted and safe in your environment. A kid's school is like their job, so home is a sanctuary where you can feel protected from anything that goes wrong during the day. Imagine if everybody at school made you feel like there's something wrong with you, and then you came home for reassurance and your parents told you there's something wrong with you too. I can't imagine the alienation, isolation, and loneliness that would build in a person. There are so many smart, brilliant kids out there who aren't going to get an education because their parents kick them out of the house.

Have you and your husband, Mark Consuelos, ever given any thought to how you'd personally respond to having a gay child?
Mark and I both feel fortunate that we've spent our entire adult lives in New York City, where we work, live, and play with some of the best and brightest gay and lesbian people in and outside of the industry -- people I'm honored to call my friends and family. So we've never gone, "What would we do?" To us, our children are a gift, we're lucky to have them, and they're born how they're born, so it wouldn't even be a discussion in our house. And they go to a very progressive school with great examples of what all different families look like, so I'm very thankful.

Tell me about your friendship with Andy Cohen.
I met Andy Cohen at a Christmas party at Bryant Gumbel's house years ago. It was bizarre because the two of us stared at each other from across the room like a soap opera moment. We came together in the middle of the room -- I don't know who else was there, I don't remember what else happened that night -- and we've been together ever since. The conversation has just sort of never ended from that moment. Andy is the greatest man on the planet, as anyone who knows him will tell you.

And you're the person to thank for taking that shirtless photo of Andy at your pool out in the Hamptons and uploading it to your Twitter.
Let me tell you that I have hundreds of pictures on my iPhone from that impromptu photo shoot. He was telling us about being in St. Bart's with a group of famous people who all knew how to be photographed coming out of the water so that they looked great. He was standing in the background behind Daniel Craig and he hated the way he looked in those photos. So he said, "I just want to re-create that moment." I said, "Well, let's re-create it coming out of the pool. So I think we took 400 pictures of Andy coming out of the pool. I was like, "You're not seeing the camera, so just sort of point and tilt your upper body toward the camera, but keep your lower body forward and then say, 'What?'" I made him say "What?" over and over again. My kids are standing there, going, "What are you guys doing?" And I'm like, "Quiet! We are having a photo shoot right now!"

Luckily you got a shot worthy of Twitter exposure.
My son Michael goes, "Are you going to put that on Twitter?" I said, "Andy, can I?" And he said, "Sure, why not?" So I put it on Twitter. Now, at that point I had tweeted about 6,000 of what I felt were quite fascinating and adorable photos of myself, my husband, and my family. I put up one picture of Andy Cohen and it's picked up by everywhere in the universe. The New York Times even called me for a quote. [Laughs] I said, "Andy, I'm feeling very insecure."

When The Advocate hosted an event in New York to celebrate Andy's cover story in September, Mark attended the party without you. You trust Andy to behave himself around that hunk of yours?
Andy's one of the few people I do trust to behave himself. Mark and Andy are like two peas in a pod. You've never seen two people who have the same opinion about everything like they do -- they can finish each other's sentences and read each other's minds. And Andy and my son Michael have the same birthday. He's Andy Joseph and my son is Michael Joseph, so we talk about that a lot.

When did you first become aware of your gay fan base?
When I read your request for this interview. [Laughs] I guess I don't really think about it, but I love me some gay men -- I'm not gonna lie. I love men in general, so if they're gay, it's just a bonus. I do feel the love from the gay community. When my son's second-grade teacher went to a Halloween party downtown a few years ago, he said that there were a bunch of gay men there doing a dance called "The Kelly Ripa," where they were just, like, model-walking and fanning each other. I was like, "Really? That's incredible!"

I think it's pretty telling that so many gay people chose your side over a lesbian's side in 2006 when The View's Rosie O'Donnell called your remarks to a then-closeted Clay Aiken on your talk show "homophobic."

Yes, I did feel very supported by the gay community in that moment, which I appreciated more than anything. But to me that was one of the most question-mark moments in the history of the universe. I'm standing there going, "Huh?! What in the world is going on over there?! You can't possibly know me the way you know me and actually mean what you're saying."

Were you worried that your reputation and relationship with gay people might be tainted by the controversy?

It was easy for me to just put the whole thing out of my mind, but to have somebody say "I'm gay and I don't think you're homophobic" made me feel good. I wasn't really thinking it could carry any weight until somebody put it like that. It certainly didn't change my relationship with any of my friends.

Have you and Rosie made up since then?
Yeah. I mean, we talked later that day! Really, had it not been right before Thanksgiving and an incredibly slow news week, I don't think that story would've gotten any traction. But it was one of the most baffling statements to ever come out of somebody's mouth.

I don't suppose you're inviting Clay out to come swim in the Hamptons.
[Laughs] No, but he could come whenever he wants. At the end of the day, I was his fan then and I'm still his fan now. The whole thing was blown out of proportion. Of all of the crazy, socially inappropriate things we do on our show, for that to be a defining moment will forever be a mystery.

On the ABC sitcom Hope & Faith you played Faith Fairfield, a fired soap star who moves in with her homemaker sister, Hope. As if the show wasn't campy enough already -- Pat Field even did the costumes -- Faith pretended to be Hope's lover in order to rent an apartment from a lesbian landlord in a season 2 episode entitled "Queer as Hope."
That's actually my favorite episode. Because the show's creator was Joanna Johnson, who played a sex goddess that men fought over on The Bold and the Beautiful, but in real life she was a young soap star terrified to come out of the closet. This was many years ago, when you were really expected to be the full fantasy package and live like the characters that you played, so she didn't know what would happen to her career if people knew she was gay. That episode was the most fun for me to play, and it was certainly the most fun for her to write because these were moments that she lived -- she'd been there and done that. I think that had she written the sitcom the way it really played out in her mind, maybe Faith Fairfield would've been gay. Who knows? Maybe that's why Faith couldn't hold down a relationship. I always kept that in the back of my mind.

You shared a kiss with costar Faith Ford in that episode, which probably would've been hotter if she hadn't been playing your sister.

Yeah, it was kind of bizarre. [Laughs] You just have to understand that Faith Fairfield was so in her own head and so about how she had to make it work and live in this happy, affordable lesbian community. So I'm like, "Pucker up, sister."

You and Mark are executive-producing the upcoming TLC reality series Eat, Drink and Be Married, a show about wedding caterers, and Mom Inc., a show about female inventors that you'll also host. As a producer, will you try to be conscious of including lesbian moms and gay couples in the mix?
Yeah, absolutely. We've actually taken the "mom" out of Mom Inc. and are opening it up to all women because there are brilliant female inventors out there who aren't moms. If sexual orientation comes up as a point of reference for them and helped inspire them to invent something, it will be a focus.

You briefly returned to Pine Valley as Hayley Vaughan Santos for All My Children's 40th anniversary in January. If you could go back again and tackle any soapy story line, what would it be?
I would like to marry Erica Kane. Why couldn't I? Everybody else has, sweetie.

Finally, as a New Jersey native, what do you think about the whole Jersey Shore phenomenon?

I'm fascinated by it. What's interesting is that so few of them are from New Jersey, but it doesn't matter because it's that same type of person I grew up with in South Jersey. It was the same thing back then -- it didn't matter if you were a boy or a girl, you knew you were going to get into a fight if you went to the boardwalk. But it was the '80s, so our clothes were worse and we had much bigger hair.

Well, thanks again for a fun chat, Kelly.
I hope that you got something you can use, because I know I prattle on. I could talk a leg off a horse.

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