When I saw this woman’s name come through the inbox I had to pinch myself. She’s a living icon, a household name, and if you ever stayed home sick from school as a kid, she was probably on your TV screen as you ate your morning cereal.
Kathie Lee Gifford had a 45 year career in television and film as a playwright, producer, singer, songwriter and actress, and you might know her best from her days alongside Regis Philbin on Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee, as well as co-host of the fourth hour of The Today Show with Hoda Kotb.
Now, she’s “retired” and I say that with quotes because though she may not be on television where we’re used to seeing her, Kathie Lee is just getting started with her new dreams and goals as an author and a voice for women on the precipice of their own life changes. Empty-nest years, divorce, the death of a loved-one, or a professional crisis or career change, Kathie Lee is here to talk about that universal search for meaning through any major life change.
Looking Back on Her Career
It’s so humbling to sit up to the mic with someone who has such a long, incredible, and well-known career. I asked Kathie what emotion comes up first when she reflects back on all she has accomplished.
“After astonishment, it’s always gratitude,” Kathie Lee began. “Honestly the story of my life, Jenna, is God’s faithfulness to me, not my faithfulness to Him.”
When people ask Kathie how she remains so joyful amidst the incredible challenges she’s faced, from losing her husband to her children moving away and many chapters of her career coming to a close, she says simply, “Because the one constant in my life has been Him, the Lord my God, and he never leaves me or forsakes me.”
Kathie Lee Gifford is a deeply spiritual woman, and you’ll hear that throughout our conversation on the podcast. She shared that though you saw her in the studio with Regis Philbin and with Hota Kotb, and on your screen in so many different ways, the spiritual part of her being was always part of her work. “I don’t separate the secular from the spiritual,” she explained.
Can’t Spell Retirement
Kathie Lee Gifford is “retired”, and I put that in quotes because she’s certainly not slowing down. She told me, “I can’t spell that word and I refuse to!” But for Kathie Lee, retirement was more about stepping into a second act and pivoting into a new role and direction for herself, something that’s not reserved for just “retirement” in its traditional sense. We talked about these pivotal moments and major life changes.
“On the day I die, I want to be writing something or doing something or learning something, or in Israel directing a movie. That’s the way I’m going to go out,” Kathie said. “If we have a pulse, we have a purpose.”
Part of Kathie Lee’s dedication to keep working and creating was the way she was raised. Her father used to say to her, “I love you too much to deny you the privilege of making mistakes.” That philosophy erased any fear of making mistakes. Instead, Kathie Lee fears not trying, of missing out on something because she let fear paralyze her.
Cast Out Labels
As Kathie Lee prepared to pivot out of the phase of her career that so many people knew her for, I was curious what that felt like, if she was attached to the label or found her purpose in the title of her job as a host. But Kathie Lee was firm about something — labels are cruel.
“I never let anyone define me,” Kathie Lee explained. “People will treat you the way you let them and you have to fight for yourself. Do it in a gracious way — tell them your joy is non-negotiable.”
Kathie Lee also spoke about reinvention and how she doesn’t really like that word. Reinvention brings with it this fight to keep yourself relevant, but in Kathie Lee’s view, “If I’m alive, I’m relevant.”
“If people only knew me from my show with Regis and my show with Hoda, they only knew about 5-percent of me,” Kathie Lee explained.
More from this Conversation
Kathie Lee’s career spanned many evolutions in technology and social media, and she shared what it’s like to be so accessible to her audience these days and how she responds when someone tries to speak into her world. We talk about the self-imposed timelines women put on ourselves and why we feel it’s “too late” to pursue dreams on our heart. Spoiler alert: Kathie Lee Gifford believes it’s never too late. In fact, that’s the title of her new book.
Hit play and tune in wherever you get your podcasts, catch up with Kathie Lee on Twitter and Instagram, and be sure to pick up Kathie Lee Gifford’s new book, “It’s Never Too Late” wherever books are sold.