Lake, who turns 44 this month, has been changed by marriage, children, divorce and remarriage. So have her ambitions for her return to the daytime arena with "The Ricki Lake Show," debuting Monday at 5 p.m. on the CW channel.
"I have a specific point of view and a vision and a sense of who I am at this point in my life," she said. "Not that I have it all figured out, but growth comes with age and life experience."
How does she envision herself as a grown-up host? Like Oprah Winfrey, whose departure from daily syndication created the opening for Lake and a clutch of others with new daytime shows, including Katie Couric, Steve Harvey and Jeff Probst.
It's a specific version of Oprah that Lake has in mind, one circa the midpoint of Winfrey's long talk-show career and "before she became a billionaire."
Lake, who has gained experience without losing her exuberance, launched into a rapid-fire description to illustrate. "When she was in the audience, running around, had her arm around an audience member, you felt she understood you, related to you, wasn't on any higher level than you. And you felt like your voice was heard. That's the show I'm looking to do."
Lake's show has a good shot at working, one expert said, in part because it's well-positioned on most TV stations, including in some larger markets, such as Philadelphia, where it airs on CW affiliates that draw a significant female audience.