Even for a child who has spent his whole life hanging out with Mom and Dad in various TV studios, a visit to the set of Sesame Street is special. Just ask Michael Consuelos, the eldest son of Kelly Ripa and her actor husband, Mark Consuelos.
"Hi, Elmo!" Michael says joyfully, reaching up to kiss the fuzzy red figure being held by puppeteer Kevin Clash. While Ripa films a featured role in the video Elmo's World: Happy Holidays, Michael and his sister, Lola, get to meet the Muppets -- and the down-to-earth actress seems as excited as her kids.
"Isn't this amazing?" Ripa says of the opportunities that have come her way since becoming co-host of Live With Regis and Kelly. Speaking with Child, Ripa, downplays the difficulty of juggling motherhood, a daily talk show, and occasional appearances on the ABC soap opera All My Children. "I take the kids and their sitter to the studio with me," she says, "and I'm actually working less now than when I was spending long days on the soap."
In spite of the public life she shares with Consuelos, who plays her husband on All My Children, Ripa says it's surprisingly easy to maintain a normal routine. "No one notices me on the street," she insists. "I'm an unfamous famous person, and the fact that Mark and I work on TV means nothing to our kids. Every adult they know works on TV!" Ripa praises her husband, as a hands-on father, musing, "Mark is fiercely private, so my job at Live is in some ways his worst nightmare. But it's a trade-off; television has given us a great life, with plenty of family time. We say no to 99% of the parties and events we're invited to, because if we can't bring the kids, we don't want to go."
Ripa agreed to play Letter Carrier Kelly in the Elmo video as a surprise for Michael and Lola. The holiday season will also include her family's traditions: baking cookies from her mom's recipes, sharing Christmas Eve dinner with her New Jersey-based clan, and decorating a big tree. "Michael loves rediscovering ornaments every year," she says, "including one of Elmo!"
Copyright © 2002. Reprinted with permission from the December/January 2003 issue of Child magazine.