Trained at various professional schools for youngsters, actress Ricki Lake completed her education at Ithaca College. While her excessive weight precluded ingenue roles on stage and screen, Lake enjoyed some success as a cabaret singer and off-Broadway performer; she was also a gifted musician, adept at several instruments. Her film career began in 1988 as a member of director John Waters' eccentric stock company. She garnered fine reviews for her work in Waters' Hairspray and the made-for-TV Babycakes (1989) and in the regular role of Red-Cross volunteer Holly Pergerino on the weekly TV series China Beach. Sensing that her poundage was holding her back professionally, Lake lost 115 pounds over a 36-month period. It was a svelte, sexy Ricki Lake who in 1993 launched the popular daily TV talkfest The Ricki Lake Show. In 1996, she returned to the big screen playing a leading role in Mrs. Winterbourne opposite Shirley MacLaine. She continued to appear in Waters' films, like Cecil B. Demented (2000), A Dirty Shame (2004) and the remake of Hairspray (2007). Her talk show ended in 2004; she launched a second, short-lived talk show in 2012.