Ricki Lake is a passionate actress, producer, documentary filmmaker, former talk show host and mother of two sons living in Marina del Rey, California. Ricki and her filmmaking partner, Abby Epstein, produce award-winning documentaries on important cultural topics, and their recently released documentary, “Weed The People,” explores the use of medical cannabis on children with cancer.
Why is self-care important to you?
Being a single mom for many years and having a lot of responsibility in my career, I’ve learned that you gotta take care of yourself first. These last few years I have slowed down significantly with my work and I really have a balance, doing things that I love and playing hard. So it’s been a conscious effort for me to keep playing.
What is your daily self-care ritual?
I wish I could tell you about the products I use, but I don’t really wash my face, which is so funny because people comment on my skin all the time and I don’t have any ritual or skin routine. For me, self-care is more mindfulness, taking care of my mind and my body. I live at the beach in Marina Del Rey and I take my dog on a two-mile walk or run every morning, and that’s been really helpful in both my physical and mental health. Part of that is deep breathing; I force myself to get to the beach with my dog and be grateful. That’s a ritual that I do every day when I’m home.
Is there a product that you never leave the house without?
I take my CBD with me everywhere, always a whole plant full-spectrum oil. Even though I don’t always feel the effects, knowing the science behind it, I feel good knowing its firing off the cannabinoids in my body.
What inspired you to make the documentary, Weed the People?
Back in 2011, my now deceased husband, Christian Evans, was extremely passionate about the science behind cannabis and CBD, and he was researching the topic. At the same time, I met a little girl who was a fan of mine when I was on the show, Dancing with the Stars, and she was very sick, and Christian and I decided to help her. So we moved her and her family into our house for six weeks and we went on this journey to find integrative care for her with cannabis, and that was the start of the story of Weed the People. She was the catalyst, her coming into our lives, and we just fell in love with her — she was so special to us. We wouldn’t have this beautiful film without her coming into my life and my husband’s interest in the medical aspect. This film is my husband’s legacy.
What did you learn from making the film?
I learned the most from the families — their bravery. When we didn’t know whether the kids would live or die, these families that allowed us to follow them and go on this journey, with cameras in their faces when they found out about their child’s tumors growing, all of it. And the responsibility that comes with that to use the years of footage and stories to make an impact.
Photos by Nicki Sebastian
In your own words, can you talk about the mind-body connection?
I have a lot of thoughts and beliefs about the mind-body connection, the brain-gut connection. In the last year I had a health scare. I got sciatica out of nowhere — I didn’t fall down or even have an injury, but one day I couldn’t move. My whole right side was seizing up, down my leg to my ankle, and it was the scariest thing. I got an MRI, I did everything that the traditional medical system told me to do, and nothing helped. I decided that I no longer wanted to live in pain, and I read a book by Dr. Sarno, called “Healing Back Pain,” which basically said that my pain was emotional — that when we have these kinds of symptoms and issues it is directly connected to our repressed emotions. I literally healed myself in six weeks and it was very transformative in my belief system, helping me realize that we do have the power to heal ourselves.
"At one point I didn’t think I would ever walk normally again. I began to understand that at the root I was feeling fear instead of love."
It went back to the grieving of my husband. I didn’t know that I was filled with rage, because I didn’t feel it, but my body was holding on to it. It’s all connected. Understanding the mind-body connection helped me learn how to heal myself.
How did you know how to heal?
My psychotherapist, Nicole Sachs, teaches this Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) method, which is all about journaling and getting your feelings out in order to heal. She said to me that this is a process, but you have to really believe that you are well and believe that you can heal in order to get there.
What words of advice have you received that still impact you today?
I was given advice by John Waters when I was eighteen and getting into business, about to shoot Hairspray, and I’m constantly reminding myself of the things he told me to do. He said, “I want you to remember these three things: always stay humble, always stay true to yourself, and if you’re going to read and believe the good things that people write about you, you’re going to have to read and believe the bad.” This was back before we even had Internet, so maybe he was talking about newspaper reviews. It’s kept me grounded.
What’s one thing you wish you could tell your younger self?
I think I’d tell myself, “Lighten up.” I always loved myself, but I was really hard on myself and had some insecurities.
What does self-love mean to you now?
I’m truly living it these days, ever since i lost my husband. I’m proud of the mother I am, and I’m proud that I was able to support so many people and myself and go through this crazy ride. I genuinely like and love myself, but since my husband died, I see myself in a different light and I really value myself in a way I didn’t before. It’s almost like I’m loving myself the way he loved me.
"I’m in a new relationship and I value myself more than ever. I know what I bring to the table and I care about myself because of how Christian loved me."
Editor's notes: interview conducted on January 14, 2019 and edited for length and clarity.