Ricki Pamela Lake was born in 1968 in New York state, the elder daughter of Barry and Jill, a pharmacist and a homemaker. Her sister, Jennifer, is one year younger.
From the age of nine, Ricki was appearing in clubs and cabarets as a singer. At the end of her sophomore year, she transferred from her conventional High School to attend The Professional Children's School, in New York City, to concentrate on acting.
After High School, Ricki attended Ithaca College for one year, before auditioning for John Waters. He cast her in his next film, 'Hairspray' (1988), as Tracy Turnblad, and began a relationship that has seen her appear as part of his company of actors in several films such as 'Cry-Baby' (1990), 'Serial Mom' (1994) and 'Cecil B. DeMented' (2000).
Despite working successfully from 1988 to 1992 as an actress, both in film and on TV, her personal life, and the resultant weight gain, restricted the choice of parts available to her. Feeling that she had reached a critical point in her career and her life, Ricki decided upon drastic action.
In a little over a year, the actress lost over 125 pounds in weight and emerged with a new career - that of a TV talk show host. 'The Ricki Lake Show' debuted in 1993. Blending the shocking revelations of the 'Jerry Springer Show' with the emotional empathy of 'Oprah' proved to be a successful formula, and the programme was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award in its second year of production. She decided to end the show in August 2004 citing that she wanted to spend more time with her family. Lake returned to the talk show arena with a new series in September 2012 called 'Ricki Lake 2012'.
The success of the talk show has allowed Ricki to make occasional returns to film acting, most noteably in 'Mrs. Winterbourne' (1996), with Shirley MacLaine and Brendan Fraser. It has also granted her a platform for her strong beliefs on vegetarianism and animal rights.
Between 2000 and 2001, she returned to TV when she appeared in several episodes of 'The King of Queen's' before lending her voice to an episode of 'King Of The Hill' in 2006.
The following year, she enjoyed a cameo role in the remake of 'Hairspray' before starring in TV movies including 'The Middle' and 'Matters of Life and Dating'.
In 2009, she fronted reality show 'Charm School with Ricki Lake' and appeared in 'Drop Dead Diva' in 2010. Lake then enjoyed a very successful stint on 'Dancing With The Stars' in 2011.
Teamed with Derek Hough, Lake danced her way to third place losing 20 pounds in weight during the process.
As well as acting and hosting talk shows, she has co-written a book about natural childbirth and birthing options with Abby Epstein and Jacques Moritz called 'Your Best Birth'. It was published in 2009.
Ricki married the political illustrator, Rob Sussman, in March 1994 and they have two children – Milo who was born in 1997 and Owen born in 2001. The couple separated in 2003 and filed for divorce in 2005.
In 2009, Lake started dating Christian Evans becoming engaged in August 2011. The couple eloped and married in secret on 8 April 2012.