Kathie Lee Gifford on life after ‘Today’ exit: ‘I’m getting back to my original dreams’ (Exclusive)


Kathie Lee Gifford is chasing her “original dreams” in her life after the “Today” show.

When the 65-year-old announced that she was leaving the NBC morning show after 11 years to pursue her passions for singing, writing, directing and producing in Nashville, people asked her, “How could you give up your dream job?” 

Her response? “I never said it was my dream job.”

SEE ALSO: Kathie Lee Gifford reveals who she beat out for iconic Carnival Cruise Lines gig

Despite spending over three decades as a television host on “GMA,” “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee” and “Today,” Gifford told AOL’s Gibson Johns during an exclusive recent interview that she “gave up” her original dreams “to do the daytime stuff.”

“I wanted to be an actress and a singer,” Gifford explained aboard the Carnival Sunrise cruise ship in New York City. “I started writing when I was a child and that was all part of my original dreams. So, I’m not reinventing myself; I’m getting back to my original dreams. It’s a total full circle thing, and it’s so satisfying.”

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Gifford is working on a variety of projects, some of which were already in the works before she officially left the “Today” show back in April. In addition to recording music, she’s working on a variety of film projects that she feels so passionate about that she “didn’t want to take any break at all” after over a decade of waking up early for “Today.”

“I didn’t want a break, I wanted to get back to the work that I’ve been dying to do,” she told AOL. “I’m moving into a brand new home in Nashville. I haven’t permanently moved there yet, because I’m still becoming a Tennessee resident, but all my work is basically based there in Nashville.”

As Gifford told us last week, coming to the realization that she needed to follow her dreams and stop putting others before herself wasn’t an easy decision. In fact, it took losing several of her loved ones to come to terms with the fact that she needed to push herself out of her comfort zone to continue living a rewarding life.

“Before, I was taking care of a lot of people: My husband was alive, my children were young, I have a lot of people that work with me in my company and at my homes, and I kept working because I didn’t want them to stop working,” she explained. “Now, I’m an empty nester and my children are well onto their careers, I’m an orphan now because my mom passed a year and a half ago, my dad passed quite a few years ago and I’m a widow for almost four years now.” 

“I realized, ‘You’re running out of time.’ I can either sit at home in my beautiful home on the Long Island Sound, feel sorry for myself for what I’ve lost, or I can make a brand new life and keep the old memories as treasures, but make new ones so I can stay alive and have something to look forward to in the morning,” Gifford went on. “I’m not going to sit around and look at my scrapbooks, I just can’t do that.”

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SEE ALSO: Inside Kathie Lee Gifford’s star-studded ‘Today’ show going away party

In following her true passions at an age when many hang up their hats for a life of leisure, Gifford has found an added bonus: Inspiring others to do the same.

“I’m hearing people from all over the country who are in their sixties now and talking about retiring and taking up golf, but that’s not really what they want to do. They have unfulfilled dreams, too, and they’re going, ‘Kathie, you know what? You’re inspiring me! Maybe it’s not too late for me to get my degree in biology,’ or whatever,” she said with a smile. “It’s never too late to dream. You know when it’s too late to dream? When you don’t dream anymore, because you’re dead.” 

“Whatever time I have left on this planet, I want to be kicking it up and making something happen and putting something beautiful into the world,” she added. “I want joy in my life.”

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