"I believe in love. And I believe in second chances," Ricki Lake tells PEOPLE

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Less than a year ago, following the death of her ex-husband Christian Evans, Ricki Lake told PEOPLE she didn’t believe she’d ever find love again.

“I really felt like meeting Christian was like lightning striking,” she says now. “I didn’t think it would strike twice, and I was okay with it.”

Lake, 50, fell into a deep depression after Evans, from whom Lake split in 2015 but remained very close to, died by suicide in 2017.

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Ricki Lake and Christian Evans
| Credit: Michael Kovac/WireImage

“For a long time, I didn’t think I’d ever be happy again,” says the venerated talk show host, whose most recent documentary, Weed the People, about the medical cannabis world, was co-produced by Evans.

But eventually, “I was okay by myself,” she says. “I wasn’t lonely, I wasn’t desperate. And I think you’ve got to love yourself and be okay on your own before you’re open [to a relationship].”

Ricki Lake
Credit: Denise Crew
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So, when Lake was introduced to clothing company owner Jeffrey Scult, 53, by a mutual friend six months ago, she let herself be vulnerable once more.

“We really took it slow,” Lake explains. “Jeffrey knew my heart was in a very precious state, and he had reverence for that.”

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Ricki Lake and boyfriend Jeff Scult
| Credit: Ricki Lake/Instagram

Now, “my relationship with Jeffrey is the healthiest one I’ve ever had,” she says. “I believe in love. And I believe in second chances.”

“We all have our own journey,” she says. “But magic has come from even the hardest days. I feel Christian guiding me, and I believe he’s brought Jeffrey into my life.”