2004 was a year of changes for Ricki Lake – she decided to end her self-titled talk show after more than a decade and separated from husband Rob Sussman after nine years of marriage.
But today, Lake, 37, is happier than ever. She’s settled in Brentwood, Calif., raising sons Milo, 9, and Owen, 4; she’s made a quiet return to TV; and she’s found a new love in personal trainer Apollo Yiamouyiannis, PEOPLE reports in its new issue.
Since May 31 Lake has been hosting the CBS summer series Game Show Marathon, in which celebs like ‘NSYNC’s Lance Bass and Kathy Najimy compete for charity in classic game show formats such as Let’s Make a Deal and The Price Is Right.
Perhaps more surprising, Lake, who gave birth to Owen at home in a bathtub, has produced a documentary about midwives, which she plans to submit to Sundance this year. “It’s the best thing I have ever done,” she says.
Maybe a close second. The best may have been choosing a real estate agent who found her not only a rambling five-bedroom home with a pool (prior owner: Courteney Cox) but also introduced her to the Ohio-born Yiamouyiannis, 34.
“He was a godsend because I was in so much pain after the marriage,” says Lake of her beau, whom she met shortly after separating from Sussman.
Two years on, “my kids adore Apollo, and my ex-husband absolutely values Apollo in this family,” says Lake of Sussman, who lives nearby and shares custody. “I feel I am an example of a positive divorce experience. It was hell going through it, but on the other side I don’t have resentment and anger.”
Her new relationship works well, in part because Yiamouyiannis is not her trainer. “I don’t look over her shoulder – she knows what’s healthy and what’s not,” he says.
That knowledge was hard-won for Lake, who weighed 250 lbs. at age 20, when she originated the role of Tracy Turnblad in 1988’s Hairspray.
In 1991 she shed 130 lbs. on a mostly vegetarian diet. Except for pregnancy gain, she’s kept it off and is today a size 8.
But staying slim “is an effort,” says Lake, who works out four days a week. “I will always have issues with food – it’s the card I was dealt. But I’m healthy,” she says. “It doesn’t get much better than this.”
• By Ericka S uter; Vicki Sheff-Cahan/Los Angeles