Ricki Lake will cameo in Hairspray Live! on NBC Dec. 7

Starring as plus-size optimist Tracy Turnblad in the John Waters’ 1988 hit film Hairspray made Ricki Lake a star, but that fame came at a price.

“John wanted it to be completely authentic, and he made me peroxide half of my hair,” Lake, 48, says in the current issue of PEOPLE. “I had to do it repeatedly throughout the eight-week shoot. It ended up like cotton candy and, honestly, my hair never recovered.”

HAIRSPRAY, Ricki Lake, 1988
Ricki Lake (as Tracy Turnblad) in Hairspray
| Credit: Everett

There was on scene that was particularly hair-raising for Lake.

“There’s a scene where I’m on the roller coaster, and John wanted my hair not to move. They safety-pinned my curls to my collar,” she says. “In another scene I had roaches thrown on me — actual roaches! I had real rats going across my feet. We were in an alley in Baltimore. We didn’t have trailers. I would have to change clothes in the back alleys. But it was worth it to become a star.”

  • Lake chats with Marissa Jaret Winokur, who starred as Tracy in the 2002 Broadway musical, and Maddie Baillio, who plays Tracy in NBC’s upcoming Hairspray Live!, in PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive issue, on newsstands Friday

But there were a lot of things Lake enjoyed about playing Tracy.

“She is so much who I was in my teens, so much of my persona,” she says. “I watch the film, and it was just me dressed in clothes from 1962.”

Now, Lake will cameo in NBC’s TV event based on the Broadway musical inspired by Waters’ 1988 film, Hairspray Live!

“I’m tickled,” Lake says of being a part of the live telecast. “Whatever they ask me to do — I would sweep the floor if they wanted me to.”

Hairspray Live! airs Dec. 7 on NBC.