American film actress and television host best known for her starring role as Tracy Turnblad in the original Hairspray and her daytime talk show, Ricki Lake.
Her success with Hairspray in 1988 prompted her to move to Los Angeles where she continued to land some small roles in Cookie (1989), Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989) and another John Waters film, Cry-baby, alongside Johnny Depp. She also played Holly Pellegrino for one season on the ABC TV series China Beach. She continued her acting career and underwent a tremendous physical transformation. Her talk show debuted in September 1993 and, in its first season, skyrocketed to the top of the charts, second only to seasoned veteran, Oprah. The show's unprecedented success seemed to derive from Lake's no-holds barred take on such heated issues as teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and infidelity, as well as her skillful provocation of the emotionally charged audience. It remained on the air for 11 seasons.