Do you enjoy watching a bit of daytime TV? If you do, then the chances are that you’ve probably heard of Kathie Lee Gifford. As a former host of Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee, and current host of Today’s fourth hour alongside Hoda Kotb, Gifford has racked up twenty-five years presenting talk shows. That’s more than most of her predecessors have ever managed, and few people have found such sustained success on two separate shows. Kathie Lee Gifford is now one of the most familiar faces on TV, but it turns out that she’s also had a pretty eventful life outside of her career.
Indeed, the talk show host’s life is not necessarily as great as it appears on the surface. Although she’s wowed the nation through TV, music and writing, there have been moments in Gifford’s life that aren’t as uplifting as her career might make it seem. Throughout her life, she’s suffered through dark times that have threatened to bring her down. Just recently, Gifford went into more depth about these with some shocking new revelations. We didn’t realize that this TV legend had suffered quite so much, but this revealing insight into her life has opened our eyes.
A woman of many talents
While Kathie Lee may be best known as a television host, she’s never given up on her love for singing. Over the last three decades, she’s released more than a dozen albums, starting with 1992’s Sentimental Journey. Although she hasn’t brought out a new album since 2010, she has been spending a lot of her time contributing her talent to various theatre productions. She wrote the musical The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson which featured on Broadway for several weeks in 2012, and most recently began work on a musical adaptation of It’s A Wonderful Life.
Second time’s the charm
She may have been scorned by her first marriage, but that didn’t deter Kathie Lee from walking down the aisle a second time. A few years after dissolving her relationship with Johnson, she met sports commentator Frank Gifford. Undeterred by their 23-year age difference, the two wed in 1986, and in 1990 went on to have their first child together. Blessed with a son, Kathie Lee was happier than she’d ever been, a feeling that was only eclipsed once she brought their daughter into the world a few years later.
Climbing the career ladder
When Gifford left her co-anchor position on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, she had the world at her feet. While the job may have kick-started her career, it didn’t stand in the way of her going on to bigger and better roles. She joined The Insider for a few years as a special correspondent, and in 2008 became the co-host of Today’s fourth hour show with Hoda Kotb. Since she joined the network’s lineup, their ratings have seen a generous increase, and Gifford finally received her first Daytime Emmy award (having been nominated alongside Philbin 10 times).
A talented woman
This woman’s talents know no bounds. As well as being an incredible singer and presenter, she’s also adept at acting. Gifford portrayed herself in an episode of Seinfeld and the third film in the Sharknado franchise, in addition to a voice-over role in animated series Hercules. If that wasn’t enough, she’s a very capable writer too. Over the last decade, she’s written three children’s books, plus two autobiographies that explore her age and faith respectively.
People in showbiz have a habit of knowing everyone. As a co-host of various TV shows, Kathie Lee has had her fair share of big-name guests, but it’s none of these that she considers close friends. Instead, it’s reality TV family the Kardashians who Gifford has had ties with for years. Although she might not often be seen hanging around with them – the two run in different circles – they’re very much an important presence in each other’s lives.
A friend in Kris
Gifford’s strong relationship with the Kardashians stretches as far back as the ‘90s. Back when the sisters were just children, their mother Kris was a rock for Kathie Lee who suffered immeasurable grief in the early years of her marriage. She revealed in 2015 that the birth of her daughter Cassie had not been an easy one, because she’d suffered two miscarriages prior to having her second child. Dealing with such a loss was hard for Gifford to cope with, but Kris offered her continuous comfort and support, thus cementing their lifelong friendship.
After helping Gifford through such a tough time, she and Kris became even closer. When the matriarch of the Kardashian family had her children Kylie and Kendall with then-husband Bruce Jenner, she made Kathie Lee and Frank godparents to both of them. Not only that, but in her 2011 autobiography, Kris revealed that her good friend even had a role in naming the first of her two daughters with Jenner. According to the book, she was throwing out a list of names (beginning with a K, of course) when Gifford stopped her on Kendall.
Til death do us part
While Kathie Lee may have found happiness with her second husband, their relationship wasn’t set to last forever. However, it wasn’t divorce that broke them apart, but sadly death. Frank passed away from natural causes in 2015, a short time before his 85th birthday, and the loss broke Gifford’s heart. She’s since gone on to remember him in the song He Saw Jesus which she released in 2017, with all profits from the track going to the charity Samaritan’s Purse.
He’s in a better place
After losing her husband, Gifford suffered tremendous lows, and she recently shared insight into how badly his death affected her. In an interview for the non-profit organization I Am Second, she talked of the moment it happened, telling how she found “on a beautiful Sunday morning” that he had “passed on to heaven.” While she was devastated, she admitted that she had “a peace that passes all understanding” when she discovered he’d gone, because he was with Jesus now. “He met Jesus and Jesus took his breath away,” she told them.
With two children from his marriage to Kathie Lee, and another three from a relationship with Maxine Avis Ewart, Frank left behind a big family when he died. Gifford informed I Am Second that her son Cody had also felt a sense of peace upon the loss of his father, and that their family had experienced their shares of highs and lows while dealing with grief. “My tears were tears of joy” she admitted, referring to how much happiness her husband brought her. Despite the difficulty of accepting Frank’s death, she found comfort in the life they spent together.
Unfortunately, while her memories of Frank may bring her some relief, it doesn’t help with the crippling sense of loneliness that she’s been fighting with since his death. She confessed in the interview that being alone has become the biggest struggle in her life, especially after so many years of having a companion there by her side. There are times when she feels “overwhelmed by loneliness” because she’s now lost her parents and husband, plus neither of her kids lives close by.
Powered by her faith and desire for life, Kathie Lee has been determined not to let Frank’s death destroy her life. While she still struggles to overcome the feeling of isolation that has developed since his passing, she refuses to give up hope. When things grow tough, she tries to remind herself that she still has a life to lead, stating that “if I just keep thinking about what I’ve lost, I don’t pay any attention to what I still have.”
While Frank and Kathie Lee enjoyed a happy marriage right up to his final days, the pair didn’t escape from the odd strain on their relationship. There was one incident that truly put their relationship to the test, and Gifford acknowledged that it was a struggle to get over it at first. While she almost let it get the best of her, her faith guided her through the worst of it and kept her and Frank together. “It was devastating to me, but I was able to stay in my marriage and have God heal it.” But what was it that rocked this seemingly happy marriage so badly?
The incident in question was a scandal in 1997 when ex-flight attendant Suzen Johnson seduced Frank in a hotel room. While the infidelity was still his own doing, the encounter was a honey trap set up by Globe Magazine to catch the former football star in a precarious situation. The publication offered Johnson a payout in the region of $100,000 to film her rendezvous with Frank, despite the heartbreak it would bring to his wife.
Honesty’s the best policy
Talking about her marital problems has never been easy, but Gifford is an honest woman and never tries to shy away from that fact. Her positivity on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee during the scandal won many viewers over, and the interviews she’s had on the subject since has brought solace to other men and women struggling in the same situation. The courage, as she puts it, to keep her family together has been the inspiration for hundreds of thousands of husbands to forgive their wives, and vice versa.
Not only her husband
Kathie Lee’s difficulties in her marriage weren’t the only time that the TV host has experienced infidelity in her life. In 2017, her co-star Matt Lauer was fired by NBC after reports of inappropriate behavior surfaced. She’s admitted to struggling with the suggestion that he attempted such conduct with another colleague, and likened the feeling to the betrayal she felt from her husband during his scandal. However, while she says it’s made her question her judgment, she believes that “the man we know and adored was the man we loved and adored and continue to.”
Fighting for her family
While her life may have been turned upside down by these moments of infidelity, she doesn’t regret sticking by Frank through the scandal. Being a mother as well as a wife, she felt an obligation to her children to fight for her family, but only because her husband had always been good to her before the incident happened. She told the people at I Am Second that she was glad her children were only young when it all happened, because by the time they understood what their father had done, they realized “how much their parents love[d] each other – and them – by sticking it out.”
Although Kathie Lee is an incredibly loving woman, this doesn’t mean that she didn’t consider dissolving her relationship with Frank. At the end of the day, he had cheated on her, and that’s something no-one should ever do to the person they love. While his betrayal left her feeling let down and ashamed, however, she felt she ought to stand by her vows and try to work through the pain. Her relationship with Frank was much stronger than the one she had with her first husband, and she wanted it to last.
God has a plan
Gifford has always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. She trusts that God has a plan for everything, and therefore refuses to dwell on her self-pity, even in light of her husband’s passing. “I couldn’t bear to think about, oh, woe is me, I’m a widow,” she confessed in an interview, determined to stay strong in light of the events. While she agreed she misses him terribly, she said that Frank “is exactly where he is supposed to,” because his death was just something that was meant to happen.
While Kathie Lee has found a way to deal with her grief and “thrive” following her loss, she isn’t yet ready to move onto another relationship. Her family is still “trying to adjust to the new normal” without Frank in their lives, and for all of them, that’s going to take a while. Gifford professed that she still expects her former husband to walk through the front door, even after several years without him, and she needs to truly accept he’s gone before meeting anyone new.
Making the most of life
As a woman in her sixties, Kathie Lee understands how precious life is and doesn’t want to waste the years she has left with her friends and family. In light of Frank’s death, she’s discovered an even greater passion for life that spurs her on to make the most of every day that she’s still alive. “Every single day if I wake up and I have a pulse, I have a purpose – I’m getting too old to waste any of [my life].”
Her faith gives her strength
Even though certain trials in her life could have pushed Gifford to question her faith, she’s found that it’s stronger now than it ever was before. Having something to believe in has given her the strength she’s needed when she’s been at her lowest, and she doesn’t regret being vocal about that. To her, faith is a “cure for the malignancy of the soul,” and she feels that’s something that the world needs to be aware of.
Despite so many years in the industry, Gifford isn’t out for the count just yet. Her new song Love Me To Death was just recently released, and she’s in the process of filming an indie movie with the same name too. Let’s not forget her and Hoda Kotb are still a staple of our TV screens every weekday morning as part of the Today lineup as well. It takes a lot to beat down Kathie Lee, and she doesn’t have plans on going away anytime soon.