Ruby Wax, OBE (born Ruby Wachs; 19 April 1953) is an American actress, mental health campaigner, lecturer, and author who holds both American and British citizenship and who has resided in the United Kingdomsince the 1970s.
A classically trained actress, Wax starred in the sitcom Girls on Top (1985–86), and came to prominence as a comic interviewer, playing up to British perceptions of the strident American style, in shows including The Full Wax (1991–94) and Ruby Wax Meets... (1994–98). She was the script editor for the sitcom Absolutely Fabulous (1992–2012), also appearing in two episodes. Her memoirs, How Do You Want Me? (2002), reached the Sunday Times best-seller list.
Wax studied psychology at the University of California, Berkeley but did not complete her degree and in 2013 she gained a master's degree in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy from Oxford University. In 2015, she was appointed a Visiting Professor in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Surrey.
Wax was born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, the daughter of Edward and Berthe Wachs (née Goldmann.) Her parents were Austrian Jews who left Austria in 1938 because of the Nazi threat. Her father became wealthy as a sausage manufacturer and her mother qualified as an accountant. Once settled in Chicago, Wax's father changed the way that the family surname was spelled from Wachs to Wax. She majored in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley but left after a year without completing her degree.
Wax moved to the UK and studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. She started her acting career as a straight actress at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, where she began a long-standing writing and directing partnership with Alan Rickman, who later was to direct most of her stage comedy shows.
In 1978, she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, working alongside Juliet Stevenson in Measure for Measure, as Jaquenetta opposite Michael Hordern in Love's Labours Lost, replacing Zoë Wanamaker as Jane in The Way of the World and appearing in the Howard Brenton three-hander Sore Throats. While at the RSC, Wax also met and befriended Ian Charleson, and later contributed a chapter to the 1990 book, For Ian Charleson: A Tribute.
Wax made a one-off appearance in a 1980 episode of The Professionals, Bloodsports, playing Lonnie, an American student. In 1981, she appeared in the follow up to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, called Shock Treatment. In the film, Wax portrays Betty Hapschatt, who got married to Ralph Hapschatt in the first film. Wax also appeared briefly as a secretary in Omen III: The Final Conflict.
In 1985, she starred as loud-mouthed American actress Shelley DuPont on the British sitcom Girls on Top.
In 1987, Wax was given her own comedy chat show Don't Miss Wax, on Channel 4. She was also hired as a radio presenter by the Superstation, an overnight sustaining service for commercial radio in the UK. In December 1989, she appeared in the Red Dwarf episode "Timeslides" as an American reporter.
Wax began working with the BBC in 1991, with the show The Full Wax (1991–94). In 1994, Ruby Wax Meets Madonna aired on the BBC, followed by the series Ruby Wax Meets... (1996–98), in which she interviewed public figures such as Imelda Marcos, OJ Simpson, and Pamela Anderson. Ruby Wax Meets... was nominated for a 1997 BAFTA Award (credited to Clive Tulloh and Don Boyd), for an interview with Sarah, Duchess of York, an interview which attracted an audience of over 14 million viewers. She also made two guest appearances in Absolutely Fabulous, a programme on which she served as script editor throughout the run of the series.
From November 2001 to June 2002 Wax presented a TV quiz show broadcast on BBC1 called The Waiting Game. Her final BBC interview series aired in 2003. In 2005 Wax appeared as a cleaner in the music video to McFly's Comic Relief song All About You.
Writing, academia, corporate training and returns to television and stage
In 2002 Wax became the host of Commercial Breakdown. Wax also wrote her memoir, How Do You Want Me?, which became a best-seller according to the Sunday Times best-seller list.
In March 2003, Wax was one of the celebrity contestants on Comic Relief does Fame Academy, which was a spin-off from the BBC's Fame Academy with all proceeds donated to Comic Relief. Although not a good singer, Wax made it to the final, taking runner-up position to Will Mellor.
Wax appeared in a supporting role opposite Olivia Williams and Andie MacDowell in the 2005 film Tara Road. In September and October 2005, she appeared as a celebrity contestant in Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon, progressing through to Sale of the Centurybefore getting knocked out. In summer 2006, she was a celebrity showjumper in the BBC's Sport Relief event Only Fools on Horses. She presented Cirque de Celebrité on Sky One in 2006. Wax also appeared in an episode of Jackass where she participated in the Gumball 3000. While the race was stopped at the Latvian border she was wrestled by Jackass personality Chris Pontius.
In March 2009, Wax returned to Comic Relief to take part in Comic Relief Does The Apprentice. Wax appeared in the 2011 Comic Relief in Comic Relief Does Master Chef in which Wax prepared an appetiser for the Prime Minister, David Cameron.
On 1 April 2009, Ruby Wax Goes Dutch premiered on Dutch television network NET 5.
Wax's 2010 stand-up show Losing It deals with her experience of clinical depression. The show played in London at the Duchess Theatre in 2011. Wax founded the mental health website (which is now part of the SANE mental health charity) in 2011 in response to the audience reaction from her theatre show.
In June 2015, Ruby Wax was appointed Visiting Professor in Mental Health Nursing at the University of Surrey.
Wax teaches business communication in both the public and private sector. Clients include Deutsche Bank, the UK Home Office and Skype.
In September 2013, Wax graduated from Kellogg College at Oxford University with a master's degree in mindfulness based cognitive therapy. She previously earned a postgraduate certificate in psychotherapy and counselling from Regents College in London.
In 2013, Ruby Wax published a book called Sane New World, which became a number one best-seller followed by A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, published in January 2016. In 2015 it was announced that she would be awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her services to mental health.
In 2004, the BBC planned to show a cartoon series called Popetown, which poked fun at the Roman Catholic Church. In it, Wax portrayed the Pope as a spoiled child. After protests, the BBC chose not to show the series.
In February 2004, Irish broadcaster Patricia Danaher reached an out-of-court settlement with Wax, who had falsely claimed that Danaher had made "racist" and "anti-Semitic" remarks about her in an interview for Ulster Television. Wax's legal team apologised in court, accepted that Danaher had not made any racist or anti-Semitic statements and announced that there had been a financial settlement.
Opposition to disabled-access ramp
In November 2005, Wax was criticised by the Daily Mail columnist Richard Kay for allegedly opposing a proposed disabled-access ramp for the nearby Couper Collection charitable art gallery. The UK Sunday newspaper The Observer also reported the controversy, as did I, Ludicrous in "The Ruby Wax Song" from their Dirty Washing 2008 EP. In 2006, Wax responded to the claims in the London Evening Standard: "Oh no, that's not true. That's so off the wall. Why would I object to a disabled ramp? It wasn't even about that."
Wax is married to television producer and director Ed Bye. They have three children: Max (born 1988), Madeleine (born 1990), and Marina (born 1993).
Wax has been very open about her own depression. She made an online series on mental health issues for the BBC and has worked with mental health charities. This was recognised in 2015, when she received an OBE in the Special Honours for Services to Mental Health. In an episode of the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are? in 2017, Wax revealed that her great-grandmother and great-aunt had been committed to mental asylums in Brno and Vienna as they were incurably "agitated".