At age 67 and after over 20 years as a television host, Kathie Lee Gifford is just getting around to her greatest passions in life. In addition to directing The Way, a short film based on a song she wrote, Gifford recently starred in the romantic comedy, Then Came You, and is the author of a new book, It’s Never Too Late: Make the Next Act of Your Life the Best Act of Your Life (Thomas Nelson, Dec.).
PW talked with Gifford about writing the new book and where things stand in her life today.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’m up to my eyeballs with movies, writing, and oratorios; I’m directing [The Way] in Utah and Texas. Those have been my focus since I left the Today show—working with the Nashville Orchestra, exciting things like that. But my publisher came to me—Matt Baugher at HarperCollins who picked the title. I said I wasn’t interested; I don’t like writing about myself because it’s tedious, but he convinced me that there is a huge market for what I have to say at this point in my life and that it has the potential to help millions of people, because people live life in fear. And this was pre-Covid. People are running out of time to make their dreams come true. Things are still on their bucket list and they’re about to kick the bucket, telling themselves that didn’t happen for a reason, or that it’s foolish and all those kinds of things. The book dispels all those lies about life. Life is precious. You have only so much time on this earth. I want each moment to be as rich as I believe God intended it to be.
How did your faith help shape your writing?
I didn't set out to write a faith-based book any more than I set out to write a faith-based movie [Then Came You]. I just tried to follow my instincts and listen to the voice of God. My faith informed every word, I don’t visit God in any building; He’s with me every second.
Who is this book for?
This book is for everybody. I have people who have followed my life—teenagers, many gay men because I have embraced them—I’m far from perfect but I am not called to judge anyone. There’s funny stuff in the book. There’s crazy stuff I’ve never written about before. It’s liberating to finally tell these stories.
What is the most common question you get from fans?
It’s not what they ask; it’s what they tell me. They say “thank you,” for being their friend. “You have no idea how you got me through that. You don’t realize I would watch you; you were honest and transparent and told people what was going on with you and it gave me strength. They would say, “she’s smiling—if she can do it, I can too.” These are total strangers who tell me this. I didn’t do the show for critics; neither did Regis. If I had listened to critics, I would never have had the life I’ve had and certainly not this career. People are afraid of what others think. It doesn’t matter to me. There’s great freedom in that.
You write: “Today, I find myself at a point in my life where the labels that technically apply to me could actually define me, if I let them.” Can you talk more about the significance, or lack thereof, of labels?
We are labeled the moment we are born—“girl.” And we’re labeled as pretty or not so much, or talented, and it’s the same with young boys as well. Then it’s, “She put on some LB's," or, "If only she had a little work done," and it continues, on and on. I remember being hurt and mad at the idea that someone could tell me that I couldn’t sing. I started studying it, I never gave up. That’s my nature. You can’t care, you have to have an I’ll show them attitude. You don’t want to get bitter, but get stronger. Keep a tender heart and tough skin.
What labels do you assign yourself?
A child of God, mother—good or bad, only my children’s’ opinions matter on that, really. I sit down thinking about my occupation, which is determined by what I am working on at the moment—director, writer—I should just put down entertainer. Creator. Labels mean people put you on a shelf and leave you there.
What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from this book?
I want to touch them somehow, to get them through the infidelity of a spouse, betrayals, disappointments, and discouragements in life. What people need more than anything is hope, and help. Covid can stop you in your tracks or it can remind you of what’s most important. Jesus said we’re supposed to help the least among us. If we would only stick with Jesus, what a different world we would have. To love people, feed people, clothe people, visit them. It’s not that hard. You don’t even have to leave your street to do that.