Kathie Lee Gifford co-hosted Today With Kathie Lee and Hoda alongside pal Hoda Kotb for the last time in April 2019. Moving down to Nashville to pursue her passion projects such as songwriting and film directing, Gifford is setting down Southern roots in her new creative environment.
After the death of her husband, NFL Hall of Famer Frank Gifford, in 2015, the Today star focused on her career and their two children – Cody and Cassidy. Kotb has previously shared about the time she started to recruit Gifford to join the fourth hour of Today, and revealed some advice her co-host’s late husband gave her at their first meeting.
Former ‘Today’ star goes South
Shortly after Frank’s passing, Gifford’s mother died in 2017. Suffering two major losses while being an empty nester, the former Today co-host knew she had to make a change.
“If you’re not careful, what you’ve lost in life can define you. It’s so much healthier to be defined by what you still have,” she said in March 2019, according to Today.com. “I found myself dealing with crippling loneliness. I had to make a move to someplace physically, and I had to make emotional moves and spiritual moves. You gotta make new memories or the old ones are going to kill you.”
Uprooting herself from her Connecticut home, Gifford migrated to Nashville and has been thriving ever since. The former NBC star is now looking ahead to all the projects she previously put on the shelf.
“I moved here because I was dying of loneliness,” Gifford shared. “Here’s the bad news — I’m a widow, an orphan, and an empty nester. The good news is, I have the freedom of a widow, an orphan and an empty nester. I’ve got all the time to spend my days writing. I’m having the life I could’ve only ever dreamed of.”
Kathie Lee and Hoda do lunch
According to E! News, the two television personalities discussed the possibility of teaming up at a lunch meeting in 2007. Gifford remembered their get-together when they announced their partnership on Today the following year.
“She thought everything I said was funny. I sang to her and she loved it, so I said, ‘I gotta be with Hoda,'” Gifford explained. “Timing is everything in life.”
Kotb recalled Gifford inviting her over to her Connecticut home to meet her husband and two kids.
“I remember on the very first day when you said, ‘I’m thinking about coming to the Today show,’ and I still remember you said, ‘I want you to come out and meet my family,'” Kotb said during their debut. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I’ve never worked with anyone who’s like that.’ I didn’t even know that was a thing.”
Frank Gifford’s advice to Hoda
When Kotb took Gifford up on her invite, she was given a warm welcome and some words of wisdom from Frank.
“So, I went to your house, and I remember Frank said to me, ‘I’ve been in television for a while, and I want to tell you something: The only way a show works is if you trust that someone’s going to catch you,'” Kotb recalled, revealing the kind words Frank said of his wife. “He said, ‘I don’t know about you, ’cause I don’t know you, but I know that you are about to work with the most trustworthy person on Earth.'”
Looking back, Kotb realized that Frank had been spot on. “He was right,” she said. “Because our show is about catching each other when you fall down. That’s it.”
After Frank’s death in August 2015, Kotb recalled hearing the news and choosing to ignore Gifford’s instruction on not coming over.
“She asked for people not to come to her house yesterday so I got out of the airport and drove to her house,” Kotb said of Gifford on the air the following Monday. “When I got there, she looked at me and she said, ‘I’m so glad you never listen to me.'”
Though Gifford is no longer at the Today desk, she and Kotb’s bond of friendship remains stronger than ever.