Anyone who watched Today with their parents as kids knows who Kathie Lee Gifford is. To us Millennials and Gen Z kids, the news first thing in the morning was never what we wanted to see, but when Gifford and Hoda Kotb came on the screen, we know the morning was going to get better. Sure, the two hosts drank a lot of wine and talked about topics that we really weren’t in the know about, but their smiles and laughs were a great reprieve from the news.
Gifford has been in the entertainment industry for years, and while some of us only know her from Today, she’s been dominating the television world for decades. The once beloved co-host of the legendary Regis Philbin, Gifford had a huge following of fans, and still does.
Gifford’s public life and career did take a hit when her beloved husband passed away in 2015. She ultimately left Today in 2019, and since has been redefining her career in the entertainment industry. So what has Gifford been up to, and where has her life taken her in recent years? Here’s what really happened to Kathie Lee Gifford.
Kathie Lee Gifford took some time to grieve her husband’s death
It’s incredibly difficult to lose a loved one in private, but Kathie Lee Gifford had to share her sadness with the world when her husband, Frank Gifford, passed away in 2015. Frank was a beloved football player and commentator and had a huge following of his own. Kathie Lee released a statement on her and her family’s behalf, letting all of their fans know that Frank had died of "natural causes" at home. "We rejoice in the extraordinary life he was privileged to live, and we feel grateful and blessed to have been loved by such an amazing human being," the statement said, as noted by People. "We ask that our privacy be respected at this difficult time and we thank you for your prayers."
Frank passed away on August 9, 2015, and unsurprisingly, Kathie Lee took some time away from work. She returned to Today on August 17 and shared what her experience had been like. "It’s a heck of a way to find out how loved you are. Believe me, my family and I got strength and comfort for it," she said (via People).
Kathie Lee Gifford put this feud to rest
Entertainment industry feuds are a given — just think of Taylor Swift and Kanye West. To that end, Kathie Lee Gifford had a feud of her own, and she finally addressed it in May of 2018. The feud in question was between her and radio host Howard Stern, and according to Gifford, she had no idea why Stern hated her so much. "Howard Stern had a feud with me going on 30 years," she said (via People). "I never met him. I never listened to his show. He hated my guts for 30 years. Hated my husband, hated my children. Hated everything I stood for."
But leave it to Gifford to take matters into her own hands. She explained that when Stern came to Today to announce America’s Got Talent (of which he serves as a judge), she approached him. According to Gifford, she went up to Stern, introduced herself, and wished him her best. "He was really flabbergasted," she continued.
So what was the reason behind the feud? Apparently, Stern didn’t like Gifford because she was "everything [he] wasn’t" as an entertainment figure. But leave it to ladies to settle scores.
After Matt Lauer’s scandal, Kathie Lee Gifford’s career at Today was altered
Kathie Lee Gifford’s life was dramatically changed after her husband died, and as she was shifting the scope of her career, she informed NBC that she’d be leaving Today at the end of 2017. But everything changed when Today host Matt Lauer was fired due to allegations of workplace sexual harassment. As noted by People, Lauer was fired in November of 2017, which cut it very close to when Gifford was set to leave. "Some things were painful for us. And we had to adjust, and then they said, ‘If we accommodate your schedule, will you consider staying?’" Gifford said about the timing of Lauer’s firing and her scheduled departure from Today.
Additionally, Gifford explained that while she wasn’t looking to "get out" of her gig at Today, she needed the time for the network to accommodate her upcoming projects. But after the appropriate adjustments were made, she said she no longer had motivation to depart the show. "There’s no better place in a 50-year career," Gifford continued. "It all worked out, so I’m staying." Gifford remained at Today until 2019.
Kathie Lee Gifford ultimately decided to quit the Today show
It was the end of an era when Kathie Lee Gifford left Today. She had such a presence on the show, but it was ultimately the decision she wanted to make for herself and her career. While chatting with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon shortly before her final episode of Today, Gifford explained that her husband’s death had significantly impacted how she viewed the rest of her life, and that it was time for her to move on. "After my husband passed, you really realize that you’re gonna run out of time. He didn’t know that morning he was running out of time," she explained.
Gifford also revealed that her mom died shortly thereafter, adding to the already transformative part of her life. "For the first time in my life, I have the time and the means to go and do anything I want to do," she continued. Gifford was at Today for eleven years, and told Fallon that she’d started to "fall in love" with the people she worked with. But all good things must come to an end.
Kathie Lee Gifford starred in this Hallmark movie in 2019
We love a good Christmas Hallmark movie, and apparently Kathie Lee Gifford does too; she scored a great gig in the Godwink Christmas movies, and starred in the Hallmark Christmas mystery films in 2018 and 2019. The 2019 installment, A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love, was a smash success for Gifford, and the film garnered some great viewer reviews. "I was delighted to discover a huge audience [for a film] based on a God wink," Gifford told TV Insider, continuing by expressing how grateful she was to be a part of films that feature "the divine intersect[ing] with the human."
And the films really did capture viewers. A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love has a 4.9 out of five star rating on Amazon Video, with a ton of five star reviews. "They are Hallmark Christmas movies at their best," one reviewer wrote. "Lots of cheesy chance encounters… and of course tons of wonderfully predictable Christmas cheer." Put it on our watch list, please.
Kathie Lee Gifford was honored with this award in 2020
Kathie Lee Gifford is known for her time on Today and her interviewing-heavy career, but she’s also been in the entertainment industry as an actress, singer, and more. As such, she was honored with the Visionary Award at the Movieguide Awards in 2020, and the honor was presented to her by a familiar face.
Before she was on Today, Gifford was Regis Philbin’s co-host on Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee from 1988 until 2000; in a sweet tribute, Philbin presented Gifford with her award. "Most of the time, I go, ‘Why? Why me?’" Gifford said during her acceptance speech, as noted by Today. "All I’ve been doing my whole life is walking with Jesus. And he takes me on adventures, since I was 12 years old. All I wanted to be when I was growing up was an actress and a singer."
The Movieguide Awards were designed to honor entertainment’s most inspiring figures, and Gifford certainty fits the bill.
Kathie Lee Gifford shared her religious faith during the coronavirus pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic put a lot of people on edge in 2020 and 2021. With unstable jobs, declining income, and of course the concern of health, it feels like a lot was put on the line. To that end, faith is something that many turned to for comfort, and it’s an aspect of Kathie Lee Gifford’s life that she’s worked to share with her followers. Notably, Gifford announced via Instagram in 2020 that she’d be taking part in a radio show with K-LOVE radio nationwide where she would be walking listeners through the Bible. "We’ll share amazing music and stories — something really special for Easter," she wrote, radio being the perfect way to reach people safely.
But that wasn’t the first time that Gifford had spoken about her faith, as it’s an aspect of her life that she holds very close to her. She told People that she chose early on in her life to trust in God and to "live in life abundantly." Gifford also shared that she believes that "all the things that have happened to [her] were not a coincidence."
Kathie Lee Gifford mourned the death of this close friend
2020 brought people a lot of grief, and the feeling hit Kathie Lee Gifford in a big way. Specifically, television icon Regis Philbin passed away at 88 years old; not only was he a huge influence on the entertainment industry, but Gifford was his co-host from 1988 to 2000. The two were dear friends, and the loss hit her. "There are no words to fully express the love I have for my precious friend, Regis. I simply adored him and every day with him was a gift," Gifford wrote on Instagram following Philbin’s death. "We spent 15 years together bantering and bickering and laughing ourselves silly — a tradition and a friendship we shared up to this very day."
Gifford shared with Today that she’d spent time with Philbin shortly before he died — the two had gotten together for lunch at Gifford’s home in Connecticut. She said that she was "so grateful" for that last interaction with him, as was Philbin’s wife, Joy. "There has never been anyone like him," Gifford added, "and there never will be."
Kathie Lee Gifford starred in this feature film released in 2020
Kathie Lee Gifford may have left the set of Today, but she in no way said goodbye to the camera. In September 2020, her film Then Came You was released in theaters and on-demand, and she described the film as her "passion project." Then Came You, according to USA Today, is a rom-com focusing on the dynamic between two people later in life who have both experienced loss.
Gifford starred alongside beloved comedian Craig Ferguson in the film, and recalled what it was like to meet and work with him. As Gifford explained it, Ferguson came to Today in 2017 to fill in as a co-host. Their chemistry was reportedly off the charts, and Gifford called it the "most explosive week of television of [her] career." The two sat down for lunch together shortly thereafter and chatted about potentially working on a film together.
At 2 o’clock next morning, Gifford called Ferguson and gave him her script for Then Came You. What inspired Gifford? "I don’t ever want to stop believing in love," she revealed. "Stop believing in love and you’ve got one foot in the grave already."
Kathie Lee Gifford added "children’s author" to her resume
A lot of celebs release books, but Kathie Lee Gifford expanded her horizons and released a children’s book entitled Hello Little Dreamer. She announced the book’s launch in October 2020 on Instagram, and wrote that she hoped the book would inspire little kids to follow their dreams. Cute.
According to the book’s description, the plot is centered around little kids who "glow with joy and a sense of security when they know God made them for a purpose." With that in mind, it completely makes sense that Gifford was behind such a sweet idea — after all, faith (as aforementioned) has been a huge part of her life. The book was designed for toddlers and kids in preschool, who can grapple with its themes moreso than infants.
The book has 4.9 out of five stars on Amazon, with so many people praising its message. "After seeing Kathie Lee Gifford on TV with Hoda, I knew I needed this book to read with my first granddaughter," one reviewer wrote. "She is only 2 years old, but this book will be read with her for many years to come." Love it.
Kathie Lee Gifford’s adult kids got married
The coronavirus pandemic postponed a lot of plans. From college graduations to weddings to birthday parties, it seems like just about everything was canceled. With that in mind, Kathie Lee Gifford was there to help both her kids get married during 2020.
As noted by People, Kathie Lee’s daughter, Cassidy Gifford, married her husband in June 2020 and Kathie Lee’s son, Cody Gifford, got married in September 2020. Cassidy’s wedding took place at her husband’s family home in Michigan, and Cody’s ceremony was held at the Gifford’s Greenwich house — the same place where his dad’s ashes were spread. "Some people are postponing until they can have the big celebration, but my kids just wanted to be married," Kathie Lee explained, pointing to both ceremonies’ small crowd size.
Of course, both weddings were joyous and nostalgic, and Kathie Lee pointed to the presence that her late husband, Frank Gifford, had at each wedding. "At both weddings, we felt Frank just smiling," Kathie Lee added. "He had an aerial view, I think."
Kathie Lee Gifford released a book about her life in 2020
Kathie Lee Gifford has a lot on her resume, and in late 2020, she got to add yet another line: author of life changing memoir It’s Never Too Late: Make the Next Act of Your Life the Best Act of Your Life. According to USA Today, the book not only focuses on Gifford’s life and career, but offers her sound advice to women who are approaching significant life changes. Gifford recalled her career in the entertainment industry, and spoke to the courage she had to manifest in order to pursue other passions.
In an interview with Today, Gifford said that the book was the latest chapter in her life, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. "You know when I retire, it’s the day I croak," she said, cracking up Today hosts Hoda Kotb, Al Roker, and Savannah Guthrie. "I think at the end of your life, you’re not going to say ‘gee I wish I had more excuses,’" Gifford continued. "You’re going to say ‘Gee, I wish I had stopped excusing things and just went after it.’" So take it from Gifford and go after what you want.
Kathie Lee Gifford started a partnership with this winery
If Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb’s hour of Today was synonymous with anything, it was wine. The two hosts always had a glass each sitting on their shared desk, and watching the two of them talk and laugh together was like watching two friends chat over drinks. So it should come as absolutely no surprise to learn that Gifford partnered with a winery, and she continues to promote her label.
Gifford teamed up with Scheid Family Wines to create her label, GIFFT Wines by Kathie Lee Gifford, and included her journey with the Scheid family on the wine’s website. "It felt like the most natural thing in the world," Gifford recalled about meeting the Scheid family, observing the farmers, and watching the wine come together. "I was born in Paris, France so maybe the love of wine comes naturally," she continued, saying that if the Scheid family could make the wine, she would "get behind it."
Gifford shares updates about different labels — like her 2019 Chardonnay — on her social media. Don’t mind us if we share a glass with Gifford if we ever get the chance.
Kathie Lee briefly returned to interviewing when she sat down with this musician
When Kathie Lee Gifford left Today, an era ended. She’d made her career on interviewing people, and it seemed crazy to think of her pursuing any other avenue. In an interview with her former Today hosts, Gifford explained that the projects she was truly passionate about — films, writing books, to name a few — took more time than hosting.
But with that said, Gifford returned to the interviewer’s chair in a surprise move in February 2021. As noted by WSMV Nashville, Gifford came back to television and interviewed Brian Welch, the founder and guitarist of rock band Korn. Gifford and Welch sat down together to discuss the film Loud Krazy Love, which followed Welch’s story. A survivor of mental health problems including depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as addiction, Welch spoke to Gifford about his life and what pulled him out of such a dark place.
Gifford was on fire, asking Welch questions with persistence and grace. It was wonderful to see her back in the host’s seat, and we hope to see her there again in the future.