Born in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, Ricki Pamela Lake developed an early interest in performing. After studying at New York’s Professional Children’s School in her teens, and a year spent at Ithaca College in New York, she decided to pursue acting fulltime. Soon after leaving college, Lake received a call to audition for writer-director John Waters’ musical comedy Hairspray.
Lake’s performance as the film’s zaftig heroine, Tracy Turnblad, won over audiences and critics, earning her a 1988 Independent Spirit Award nomination for best actress and roles in films such as John Waters’ Cry-Baby and Cookie, the top-grossing comedy Working Girl, the acclaimed drama Last Exit to Brooklyn, Where the Day Takes You and Inside Monkey Zetterland, as well as a season on TV’s China Beach.
In 1992 Ricki appeared in a pilot for a new daytime talk show and by the following year she had moved to New York and begun taping The Ricki Lake Show for Sony Pictures Television.
Even as her talk show became a phenomenon, Lake continued to pursue acting roles, appearing in the romantic comedy Mrs. Winterbourne, John Waters’ Serial Mom and Cecil B. Demented and in a recurring role as Stephanie Heffernan on the hit sitcom King of Queens. 2002 saw her onstage at Madison Square Garden in a celebrity-studded performance of The Vagina Monologues.
Since the wrap of The Ricki Lake Show in August 2004, Lake has continued to act in various film and TV projects. This year she shared her love for games with millions as the host of the CBS hit, Gameshow Marathon and she recently completed Kurt Voelker’s independent film, Park, opposite William Baldwin and Cheri Oteri.