Kelly Ripa is thankful for her time with Regis Philbin. In a preview clip of ABC News' 20/20 special about Philbin's life, airing Tuesday, his 49-year-old former co-host reveals the biggest thing the late TV personality taught her during their time hosting Live! With Regis and Kelly from 2001 to 2011. Philbin died earlier this month at age 88 of natural causes.
"What I think my biggest takeaway from the 11 years that I shared with him was that you have to be yourself," Ripa says. "You cannot be one person on camera and a different person once the light goes off or the audience is gone. You have to be who you are."
In the sneak peek clip, Ripa recalls thinking, "That's gotta be a mistake. That can't be right," after hearing of Philbin's death.
"There was a moment where I had this incredible hope that it was somehow misreported," she says.
As for how he'll be remembered, Ripa says "his love of people will be his legacy."
"His talent was being himself completely and making everybody else the star of the show," she says.
During Monday's episode of Live With Kelly and Ryan, Ripa paid tribute to Philibin, admitting "as people get older you always know that certain things are inevitable, but Regis was one of the people who we all believed would figure out a way around the inevitable."
In an Instagram post following Philbin's death, Ripa wrote that she and her current co-host, Ryan Seacrest, were "beyond sad" to learn of his passing.
"He was the ultimate class act, bringing his laughter and joy into our homes everyday on Live for more than 23 years," the message read. "We were beyond lucky to have him as a mentor in our careers and aspire everyday to fill his shoes on the show. We send our deepest love and condolences to his family and hope they can find some comfort in knowing he left the world a better place."