After 11 years of cracking wise, sipping wine, and baring her soul to millions of morning viewers, Kathie Lee Gifford will bid goodbye to TODAY on April 5. And while it’s sure to be a hanky party, Gifford’s got her focus on tomorrow.
KLG’s TV career took off in 1985, when she hooked up with Regis Philbin for The Morning Show, which morphed into Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee. She rose to America’s sweetheart status for her cute, candid descriptions of life with her sports legend and commentator spouse, the late Frank Gifford, and their two kids. Fifteen years later, she said, “See ya!” to Regis, explaining “I thought I’d done the best television I could possibly do.”
Then came her fateful meeting with Hoda Kotb over lunch that “lasted four hours,” Gifford recalled. “We clicked on every level.”
That was pretty apparent when the two teamed up on TODAY in 2008. The garrulous gals set their guests at ease while making fans feel like close friends. Gifford never held back or played it cool, even when discussing personal pain, like her husband’s high-profile affair. “It’s horrible. You’re broken by it,” she said on the air. “It’s a tremendous test of your relationship.”
I am an artist, I’m an actress, I’m a writer, I’m a songwriter, and a director now.
A test KLG aced, standing by her man till his death in 2015. Losing him, and her mom shortly thereafter, led Gifford to contemplate leaving TODAY: “I experienced huge changes … [I’d] become a widow, an orphan, and an empty nester all at once.” And so she told her TV team, “I’ve never worked with a more beautiful group of people, and nobody more so than my Hoda.”
Jenna Bush Hager will step into the co-host seat while Gifford immerses herself in numerous projects. There’s acting and singing in the upcoming film Then Came You, moving from Connecticut to Nashville to concentrate on songwriting, and traveling the globe making movies—her directorial debut is The God Who Sees, a short filmed in Israel. “I am an artist, I’m an actress, I’m a writer, I’m a songwriter, a director now,” Gifford told People. “That’s the stuff that feeds my soul, and I know that I’m running out of time to do those things.”
KLG’s lesson to us all? There’s no time like the present—as in today!