Kathie Lee Gifford reflects on how faith has led to an ‘incredibly adventurous journey’: ‘I just trust in God’

Kathie Lee Gifford reflects on how faith has led to an ‘incredibly adventurous journey’: ‘I just trust in God’

EXCLUSIVE: At age 67, Kathie Lee Gifford is at peace with herself.

The former “Today” co-host has opened up about the most joyful — and painful — moments of her life in a new book titled, “It’s Never Too Late.” In her latest release, Gifford reflected on the many lessons she learned along the way and how an unshakeable Christian faith uplifted her during times of despair.

Gifford also wrote about her first marriage to composer Paul Johnson and the challenges that came from it. The union lasted from 1976 until 1983. She went on to wed Frank Gifford, a football star-turned-broadcaster, in 1986. They remained together until his death in 2015 at age 84.

Kathie Lee Gifford has released a new book titled 'It's Never Too Late.'

Kathie Lee Gifford has released a new book titled ‘It’s Never Too Late.’

Gifford spoke to Fox News about finding love, enduring loss, as well as her decades-long friendship with Regis Philbin, comforting Ethel Kennedy, as well as what her life is like today.

KATHIE LEE GIFFORD SHARES THE BIBLE VERSE THAT HELPED COMFORT ETHEL KENNEDY FOLLOWING SON MICHAEL’S DEATH

Fox News: What inspired you to write a book like “It’s Never Too Late” now?
Kathie Lee Gifford: Well, I’ve sort of become the poster child in our culture for somebody that just keeps coming back, doing brand new things and surprising the world. Just when they think they’ve got you labeled and safely put on the shelf. But I don’t live my life like that. I don’t sit around and strategize like somebody like Madonna does.

You know, I have respect for people that are able to do that with their lives and sort of control the next chapter of their life. I just trust in God. I get up every morning knowing that He has something new and fresh for me. And I just try to be faithful to it. And that has brought me down an incredibly adventurous journey that I’m still on. 

Kathie Lee Gifford in the first grade.

Kathie Lee Gifford in the first grade. (Photo courtesy of Kathie Lee Gifford)

… That’s what I’m trying to encourage people to do in their lives. It’s never too late, first of all, to grab God’s hand. No matter how old you are, no matter how much rheumatoid arthritis you’ve got in that hand, you can reach onto God at any time in any way, because He is there. If you’ve already believed in Him in your lifetime, you can draw closer to Him and you can start trusting more. You can start memorizing scripture that feeds your soul. 

Fox News: It sounds like retirement isn’t part of your vocabulary.
Gifford: No, I say refire. Refire and find something new, learn something new and do something new each day. And don’t let fear paralyze you from living the most abundant life you can. God wants you to. He’s not a God of vengeance and He’s not a God of condemnation. And our culture has been taught that that’s what He is. And it’s the exact opposite of that.

KATHIE LEE GIFFORD SAYS IF SHE EVER FALLS IN LOVE AGAIN ‘IT WILL BE BECAUSE GOD JUST MADE IT HAPPEN’

Fox News: A major theme in your book is perseverance. Did faith ever play a role in you being so determined in Hollywood?
Gifford: In every aspect of my life. You know, the Bible is very clear about what our relationship with God is supposed to be. It doesn’t say once a week I want you to go and visit me for an hour. Or on Easter Sunday or on Christmas Eve, that’ll be enough. That’ll give you everything in life.

Kathie Lee Gifford said faith has played an essential role in her decades-long Hollywood career.

Kathie Lee Gifford said faith has played an essential role in her decades-long Hollywood career. (Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images)

No, the Bible says in Acts, it says, “In Him, we live and move and have our being.”… When we seek a relationship with the living God, it will absolutely transform every aspect of your life.

Fox News: You must have many, but during your writing process, what’s one memory from your time with Regis that stood out to you?
Gifford: Well, we had 15 years together. So when people ask me, what was your greatest memory? I simply can’t say. It was an absolutely life-changing relationship. [Looking back], nobody thought I should do that local show in New York at the time with Regis Philbin. It was something called “The Morning Show,” and I was about to become the host and lead anchor of “Good Morning America.” But I didn’t want to be that. At that time, the show was very, very telepromptered, and I’m not a teleprompter person. I’m not a journalist. I’m an entertainer.

I would watch Regis, and every time I would turn on the TV, he was doing something stupid but really entertaining. Something funny or fearless. I just went, “He’s like me. He’s got the same take on life. He’s got the same sense of humor. I want to be with that guy.” And everybody said, “You can’t. Are you kidding? You’re ready to hit the big time.” And I said, “I’d rather be happy than hit the big time.”

Kathie Lee Gifford said she has always admired Regis Philbin before they became close friends.

Kathie Lee Gifford said she has always admired Regis Philbin before they became close friends. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

KATHIE LEE GIFFORD HAS ‘TOUGH DAYS’ BUT SAYS ‘WE’RE ALWAYS MORE BLESSED THAN WE ARE BURDENED’

I’ve always felt something in my soul that said my joy is non-negotiable. And I wasn’t happy on that other show. They were nice people. They were very kind to me, very good to me, but I wasn’t happy creatively. It was Barbara Walters who said, “Kathie, why aren’t you going to join Regis?” I said, “Because everybody’s telling me it’s some local show.”

And she just sort of smiled that wide smile of hers and replied, “Honey, Toledo is local. You join Regis and you won’t be local very long… You’re going to own television.” And she was right. Within a couple of months, we went to number one in the New York market. Within three years Disney picked us up, syndicated us and we were off and running.

Kathie Lee Gifford said she and Regis Philbin weren't afraid to have fun.

Kathie Lee Gifford said she and Regis Philbin weren’t afraid to have fun. (Photo courtesy of Kathie Lee Gifford.)

Fox News: What do you believe was the secret behind your chemistry with Regis?
Gifford: I remember all those days of being with him and so looking forward to seeing him every morning. But we would never speak before the show. And that’s what kept it alive and unpredictable and fun.

Regis Philbin passed away on July 24, 2020 at age 88.

Regis Philbin passed away on July 24, 2020 at age 88. (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

And we had fun for 20 years — 15 years working together, and then [afterward], we remained wonderful friends. [The experience] changed my life. We made broadcast history. We changed the landscape of daytime TV forever, for better or worse. And Regis became one of my closest, dearest friends, as has Hoda [Kotb] on “The Today Show.” 

KATHIE LEE GIFFORD’S DAUGHTER SAYS QUARANTINE IS ‘TURNING ME INTO MY MOTHER’ IN TWIN PIC

Fox News: Why did you leave both shows?
Gifford: For the same reason — I’m an artist. And unless an artist is growing and creating and thriving on the vine, we die. We just die inside. And again, my joy was non-negotiable. I had movies to make, I had books to write. I had symphonic oratorios I wanted to film in Israel. And I just had big dreams that had never come to pass. And I knew I was running out of time for them like everyone is.

Fox News: Why did you choose to discuss your first marriage to composer Paul Johnson in your book?
Gifford: … I just wanted to highlight a season in my life that was a season of despair. I’m sitting here and looking into my writing room. And there are four Emmys sitting there. Sometimes people only see the Emmys. They don’t see the hard work it took to get there or all the years of struggle. They don’t understand that, nor do they have to. 

Kathie Lee Gifford opened up about her first marriage to composer Paul Johnson.

Kathie Lee Gifford opened up about her first marriage to composer Paul Johnson. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images)

But if they’re in any way emulating you or they are jealous of your success, I think it’s always good to temper that with some information of, “Hey, it wasn’t always this way.” I slept in my guest room for six years in a loveless, sexless marriage. That was a cruel season in my life. And I think it helps people see you as a human being more than just a success.

I still don’t blame him for anything. I still pray for him often. And if I ran into him today, I’d give him a big hug. I shared my story so people will understand this has been a great life, but it hasn’t always been easy.

KATHIE LEE GIFFORD SAYS SHE WENT ON HER FIRST DATE IN 33 YEARS

Fox News: You and Frank Gifford experienced wonderful highs and painful lows. What do you believe kept the two of you together?
Gifford: God. He’s the answer to every one of life’s problems. Every one of life’s issues begins and ends with Him. I wake up every single morning and I have a choice. I can choose to follow God and trust in Him with my life and all things, all ways. Or, I can foolishly believe that I can do a better job of doing my life than He can. And I choose [God]. Every day, I have a choice to make, and I try to make that same choice every day.

Kathie Lee Gifford and Frank Gifford tied the knot in 1986. They remained together until his death in 2015.

Kathie Lee Gifford and Frank Gifford tied the knot in 1986. They remained together until his death in 2015. (Photo by Michael A. Smith/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)

I am far from perfect, but I have enough experience in trusting God in my life that I know how utterly foolish I would be to think that something was going to be better to me and love me more and forgive me more than just walking with God does… I’m always flabbergasted by people that don’t want God in their lives. I just pray for them because I can’t imagine a moment of my life without Him, much less in my lifetime.

Fox News: What was it like comforting Ethel Kennedy?
Gifford: I was related to Ethel by marriage because her son Michael was married to [Frank Gifford’s] daughter Vicky. And they had three beautiful children. Michael was killed in a tragic ski accident in Aspen. It was New Year’s Eve 1997. Vicky and the children had been staying with us at our home in Colorado. And we ended up driving Vicky to Aspen. 

[I remember] Ethel was unable to leave her son’s side for hours. Just would not leave and would not speak. And no one tells Ethel Kennedy what to do. I don’t want to give away the story because I do want people to read it in its entirety, and the power of it. But, it was something that I said to her. It gave her the strength to take that first step and move away. And we all need some encouragement sometimes. 

Michael Kennedy and Vicki Gifford during their engagement party.

Michael Kennedy and Vicki Gifford during their engagement party. (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

KATHIE LEE GIFFORD SAYS LATE HUSBAND FRANK ‘MIGHT HAVE HAD A LITTLE SOMETHING’ TO DO WITH KIDS GETTING ENGAGED

She’s a deeply religious person, but she represents very clearly my point about how religion will not be there for you in the deepest despair of your life. But God will be… I have experienced religion and I run like crazy from it. I think religion puts you in bonds. It puts you in chains that God never intended us to be in. A relationship with the living God frees you from those things that would otherwise bind you and chain you and keep you paralyzed with fear.

Fox News: It’s been said you’re now open to dating but your son Cody doesn’t make it too easy for you.
Gifford: *Laughs* [Cody] promised his father before he passed, that he would take care of me. And he darn well tries! Once in a while, I want to go, “Back off.. this is my life. I love you. And I know you mean well for me. But I want to soar at this point in my life.”

Kathie Lee Gifford said her son Cody (pictured here) doesn't always make it easy for her to date.

Kathie Lee Gifford said her son Cody (pictured here) doesn’t always make it easy for her to date. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage/Getty)

I want to learn new things, do new things. I want to dance the bachata with a cute guy *laughs*. And there’s nothing wrong with it. I’m a widow. I’ve been a widow for over five years now. I’m not looking to get married. I’m not looking at any of those kinds of things. I just want to have fun.

Kathie Lee Gifford said she's open to dating again after Frank Gifford's passing.

Kathie Lee Gifford said she’s open to dating again after Frank Gifford’s passing. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/WireImage)

My life has not been fun for years. I had fun with Regis and I had fun with Hoda on my shows but… because of my husband’s CTE, he was fading. He certainly was not the man I married in terms of his vitality. I lost big parts of Frank long before he died, you know? 

KATHIE LEE GIFFORD RECALLS LAST MEETING WITH REGIS PHILBIN BEFORE HIS DEATH: ‘IT WAS SO PRECIOUS’

… It’s a struggle when you’re taking care of people you love during those seasons in your life… But Frank was fading. And when God finally took him away to glory, he didn’t want to come back. He wouldn’t come back now if he could.

Fox News: What’s life like for you today?
Gifford: I’m not dating anybody right now. I did, just this past year, I started seeing some people. And I had a lot of fun with them and they’re lovely gentlemen, such nice people down here in Tennessee.

Proud mom Kathie Lee Gifford is enjoying her life in Tennessee.

Proud mom Kathie Lee Gifford is enjoying her life in Tennessee. (Photo courtesy of Kathie Lee Gifford.)

There’s a culture of kindness down here that I love. So the guys that I started going out with, for whatever reason, were really fun and very nice, but they weren’t for me long-term. And I’m not here to use people. And I knew early on with every one of them that it wasn’t going to be forever.

I’m just enjoying life right now. I don’t know if I’ve got 20 minutes or 20 years left with me. I know I have more energy than almost anybody I know. I’m doing more now than I’ve ever done in my life. So, I see no end in sight right now, but the end will [eventually] come and I’ll be ready for it.

KATHIE LEE GIFFORD’S DAUGHTER CASSIDY WEDS BEN WIERDA IN INTIMATE BACKYARD CEREMONY

When I held my husband in my arms and all the life was drained from him, I saw that look on his face and I knew that he’d seen Jesus and Jesus had taken his breath away. I wrote a song with my friend Brett James about it… It brought a lot of peace to people because they think that death is the end. And if you’re a believer in Jesus and His promises, it’s the beginning. It’s just the beginning.

Kathie Lee Gifford (pictured here with Hoda Kotb), said she wants to have fun again.

Kathie Lee Gifford (pictured here with Hoda Kotb), said she wants to have fun again. (Photo courtesy of Kathie Lee Gifford.)

… Some people think you’re crazy to say this, but the best day in a believer of Christ’s life is the day that they go home to actually be with Him. That’s the best day. That’s the reward. And if people really believe that, they don’t fear death. You may fear your suffering, you may fear loneliness. You may feel certain things, but I don’t fear anything. I fear being separated from God. And He’s told me in his word that that’s impossible… So I live my life with that assurance, every single moment of it.

Fox News: What’s one piece of advice you would give to readers today?
Gifford: Simply that it’s never too late. If you’ve always wanted to be a singer, dancer, actress – there’s always ways you can do those kinds of things, even if it’s not going to be your life’s work. Because dreams delayed and dreams unrealized create almost a sort of sense of despair in the human soul.

Kathie Lee Gifford said she hopes her book will inspire others to pursue their dreams.

Kathie Lee Gifford said she hopes her book will inspire others to pursue their dreams. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

It’s a negativity that eats at you. It eats at you and robs you of your joy. And I don’t think God wants us to be robbed by joy. You know, nobody in the Bible ever retired. They just died *laughs*. Died or went on to be on an even more glorious experience and adventure with God.

Comments are closed.