Kathie Lee Gifford became a staple of morning TV when she co-hosted Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee for 15 years. She followed that up with 11 years of co-hosting (and wine tasting) with Hoda Kotb on TODAY. These roles looked like dream jobs, but Gifford found herself aching for more.
"It never was my dream job. They were wonderful jobs with wonderful people — I'm grateful for them," Gifford tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “But my dream job all my life is to be doing what I'm doing right now.”
These days, Gifford is living in Nashville, Tenn., and working her way through a list of passion projects. The most recent is her book, It's Never Too Late, which is filled with stories from her career, run-ins with iconic celebrities and insights into her faith. "I'm blessed to be in a season of my life right now where I'm happy at every single level. Joyful at every single level and firing on all cylinders," says Gifford.
In 1975, Gifford left Oral Roberts University to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. She gave herself a year to make it in the business and struggled in the beginning to land work. "I learned that even if I did not get the job, I learned something from trying to get the job," she explains.
Soon enough, Gifford found gigs working as an extra on the set of Days of Our Lives and singing back up for other performers. She spent two years as the opening musical act for Bill Cosby (she writes about the time he tried to kiss her) and made a name for herself on shows like Name that Tune.
Gifford was eventually tapped to become a co-host on Good Morning America, and in 1985 she joined Regis Philbin in the co-host seat on Live!
"I ran down the block to burst into his set on the very first day and said, 'Tada,'" Gifford says. "And he looked at me and said, 'Is this how it’s gonna be?' And we were off to the races!"
The duo quickly found their stride, and Gifford says that Philbin taught her how to take risks, and make good television by simply letting life happen. "We never had one rehearsed moment for 15 years, not one. And neither one of us had any idea that we would end up absolutely changing the landscape of daytime television for the rest of history," she says.
Kotb and Gifford shared a similar dynamic on TODAY, but there's another co-host who holds a special place in her heart. When Kotb took maternity leave in 2017, former Late Night host Craig Ferguson was called to fill in. Gifford describes their pairing as "explosive."
"They put a 15-second delay on us because we were too little naughty kids in the playground," jokes Gifford. “And we bring out the absolute worst in each other, which is the best television you can have.”
The two joined forces again in 2020, as co-stars in the romantic comedy that Gifford wrote entitled Then Came You. Up next, she's directing a movie called The Way and working on her next book, The Jesus I Know. Gifford says that finding a new community and support in Nashville helped her to rebuild after the death of her husband Frank Gifford in 2015.
"When I first married Frank I said, 'Lord, just give me 10 years with this man, I’ll take 10,' because he was 23 years older than I was to the day. He gave me almost 30 years with him in our marriage, so 20 more than I had asked for, and that’s the nature of God," says Gifford.
Now, Gifford is looking forward. "I'm seeing someone now and we’re having a good time." Her children Cody and Cassidy both got married in 2020, and she's chasing down the dreams she had when she first moved to L.A. all of those years ago.
"Don’t live with regrets. It’s never too late," she says.
Produced by Kat Vasquez
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