Is Kelly Ripa Ready for Prime Time?

Two years ago, when Regis Philbin announced that Kelly Ripa had won the job as the new co-host of his morning talk show, few people knew much about her.

Watch the full interview on 20/20 this Friday at 10 p.m.

At the time, when the producers of Live with Regis were searching for a co-host to replace Kathie Lee Gifford, even considering Kelly Ripa for the job seemed like quite a gamble.

The gamble certainly paid off. Philbin said, "She's got the sense of humor, the curiosity, the spontaneity — pretty. All those qualities, and she was the right one, and boy, she was."

Since she joined Live with Regis and Kelly, the show's ratings have soared.

Today, Kelly Ripa lives in New York's trendy Soho neighborhood, where she recently moved with her family into a 5,000-square-foot loft.

Ripa had ambitions to perform since childhood. "I would put on a show for anyone passing by. I mean anytime, anywhere, put on a show. literally," she said.

While she was still in high school, Ripa was a regular on a local version of American Bandstand called Dance Party USA.

Her decision to pursue acting came when she realized college wasn't for her. "I think it was the realization that I couldn't do anything else. I mean, honestly, I had no other talents, and I just knew school wasn't my thing. I went to community college for about two weeks," she said.

From ‘Human Barbie Doll’ to Soap Star

Unlike most actors who work for years to get their big break, Ripa seems to have a charmed life in the entertainment world. She said she actually approached her career looking for "the least amount of work possible that it would take for me to become an actress." Ripa said, "I kept thinking, 'hmmm, well, what if I just become an actress and then I sort of learned as I went?'"

So she started making frequent trips from New Jersey to New York to audition for acting jobs — anything she could find. "I really believed there were no small jobs. I would do any job. I auditioned to work at the toy fair to be like a, a human Barbie doll."

With virtually no acting experience, 19-year-old Ripa was still living at home when she went to audition for the soap opera All My Children, thinking she'd be lucky to get a job as an extra. To her amazement, she got the job.

But Ripa soon realized that a few acting classes would probably do her some good. "It wasn't until I got there and started working that I realized I can't act," she said.

The show's producer ended up paying for Ripa to take some acting lessons.

The lessons paid off. Ripa spent 12 years on All My Children, playing the part of Hayley Vaughn, an alcoholic with a split personality. She became one of the most popular characters on the show.

Five years into her stint on All My Children, she met the man who would become her husband, actor Mark Consuelos.

And she said Consuelos made quite a first impression on her. "I just was dumbstruck, thunderstruck, at how beautiful he was. He was right up my alley."

On-Screen Romance Continues Off-Screen

Consuelos was soon playing Kelly's love interest on the soap opera, and before long, life was imitating art — and an off-screen romance began.

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