Did you hear? September 18 to 22 is Love Your Age Week! Who else would we ask to help us celebrate this momentous occasion other than the queens of daytime, Today cohosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb? Here, the fun-loving duo raise their glasses to the privilege of getting older and get completely candid about the topic with Prevention's editor-in-chief—because what else would you expect them to be?
Read more candid interviews and inspiring essays about women who are living their best lives at 40 and beyond asPreventioncelebrates the opportunity to fully Love Your Age!
Every weekday morning at 10 am, Hoda Kotb, 53, and Kathie Lee Gifford, 64, take over 3 million US households with a comic blend of true confessions, screwball hilarity, and tears, tears, tears—which has been honed over 9 years as TV cohosts. Their broad and sometimes bawdy Today commentary, whether on their own or accompanied by a guest, is usually punctuated by a glass of wine, a signature flourish that has earned them both enthusiastic plaudits and rebuke.
(The 21-day plan in Love Your Age is the life-changing reset every 40+ woman needs!)
But why shouldn’t they toast themselves? They’re getting older in the public eye with pride and gusto and have recently grown stronger after undergoing life-changing experiences—the death of Kathie Lee’s husband, Frank Gifford, 2 years ago, and Hoda’s adoption of a daughter, Haley Joy, whom she’s raising with her partner, Joel Schiffman. In fact, unlike most popular entertainers, these two queens of morning TV wear their years like crowns. They spoke with me for two hours about women and aging on the occasion of our special Love Your Age issue, and they’ll return to the subject on air September 18 to 22 when Today partners with Prevention for Love Your Age Week.
Barbara O'Dair: Does age matter?
Kathie Lee: It matters for me now, because I do the math for the first time in my life. I’m really aware that time is precious and finite and that I’m going to run out of time for some of the big things I want to do.
Hoda: A year and a half ago, I would have said it matters a lot, more than it does now. But since Haley and Joel, the idea of age doesn’t matter as much to me. I didn’t think those things were possible at this age. I feel like if you’re happier at 53 than you were at 43 and 33 and 23, there’s hope.
Is part of your Today mandate to feature older women who can tell their own stories?
Kathie Lee: Some of our favorite guests are Judi Dench and Helen Mirren. They are rock stars, and they’re funny. They’re just a kick in the pants.
Hoda: I don’t know if it’s by design. We just find [the older women] interesting, and they’re honored. But we treat them like the old broads they are, because we’re old broads. They’re just older.
Love your age, no matter how many candles are on the birthday cake:
Do you think perceptions about older women need to change?
Kathie Lee: A lot of young people have no respect for the past. They have no idea who came before them, and they think you only have something to say if you’re under the age of 30. I’m sorry, your brain isn’t even fully formed until you’re 25, so you’ve still got a lot to learn.
(This incredible 52-year-old woman went from not being able to do a single push-up to winning the CrossFit games!)
Did you have other women as mentors?
Hoda: Many mentors. People are basically good at heart, and if you come in and say, “You know what? I’m new at this,” they’ll generally say, “Of course. Let’s go have a glass of wine and talk about it.”
Kathie Lee: You gravitate to the good people. Life’s too short; I’m not going to work with people anymore who don’t make us feel good about ourselves.
How much of feeling good about yourself is consciously choosing to?
Kathie Lee: All day long, life is about choice. Am I going to bemoan the fact that I’m 64 years old or say, “Thank you, Lord, I made it to 64”? I’m healthy, I’m employed, my kids are awesome, life is good. I’m grateful. I think the most important reason to love your age is to be grateful for everything. If you grieve what you’ve lost in life at the expense of being grateful for what you have, you might as well take a dirt nap.
Has getting older helped you in your personal life?
Hoda: I was scared of everything.
I was always kind of slinking away. I was a pleaser. Getting older is so much fun for me. I think it’s because I didn’t know that I’d be able to do things for the first time at 50-something. I’m working at a job at 53 that I never thought I would be working at. I have a baby, which I never thought would happen at this age. I wake up excited for the day and for life. If someone says something unkind—and people do—about aging or anything, I don’t even care. I couldn’t care less what they say.
(Six women reveal how menopause affected their sex lives. Spoiler alert: It's not all bad news.)
Kathie Lee: I guess it has helped in the sense of being driven by ambition, which most of us in our 20s are fueled by. Ambition is not a bad thing. It’s what you do in service to the world as you’re trying to achieve your goals. Do you mow everybody down? That’s bad ambition. Do you strive for a goal, pour all your energy and your soul into something? That’s good ambition.
How about as a woman? Have you felt differently about aging than you think a man would in this culture?
Kathie Lee: I’m excited about being a woman in our world today. I think we’re finally getting our due. We’re finally being appreciated.
You never felt hindered by being a woman in your industry?
Hoda: I have to remind myself that this is a great ride, and it has an end point. I know that that could come in our business tomorrow or in 3 weeks. I know there’s a younger, prettier, smarter woman around the corner. I don’t live in terms of who’s coming. People will come and go. I’ve never really sold myself in our industry based on what I look like or my age.
(Here are 9 things people who feel half their age do every week.)
Kathie Lee: I’ve only felt hindered by my lack of talent, if it existed in a certain area, or my lack of funds, which would spur me to find a way to get the funds. With wisdom you find a way.
Do you ever feel invisible as a woman, even though you’re in the public eye?
Hoda: Sometimes. When there are a lot of young guys, even older guys, and a lot of young, beautiful women, you sort of fade away into the background because pretty attracts attention. I get it. People are attracted to the shiny penny—that’s normal. There is a weird feeling when someone is looking at everyone but you. It’s like, “Hi, I’m here, and I’m in this group.” I really try, when there are moments like that, to excuse myself.
Have you always told the truth about your age?
Hoda: Yes, though I’ve forgotten what it is at times because you can’t believe you’re that age. My sister lies. I say, “Please stop it. I can’t keep up with your lie. You’re 3 years older—how old am I now? Don’t tell them you’re 50!”
Kathie Lee: Long before Google, I told the truth. I think that has worked for me in my life. People know that when I say something, I mean it. There’s a trust factor with me. People may not like me, but nobody thinks I’m not telling the truth.
Does the way other people see you match up with how you see yourself?
Kathie Lee: I have no time for other people’s opinions. That’s the other joy of getting older—the number of people whose opinions matter has dwindled down at my age to maybe 10. These are the people who know me the best, love me the most. And you learn through the years who they are.
Do you struggle with your weight, or have you ever?
Kathie Lee: At times I did. During menopause, I struggled more with it. My doctor, whom I love, put me on one of those patches for estrogen. I had the least amount of estrogen they could give you, and it made me a crazy person. But in the scheme of things, how many women have been blessed to live long enough to go through menopause? Somehow they got through.
(These 7 exercises will help you banish back fat after 40.)
Hoda: I struggled all through college. I started really putting on weight after my dad passed, and I just didn’t realize it. I was an athlete in high school, so I didn’t know I was big until one of my bosses came up to me and said, “Hey, Hoda, maybe you ought to get on the treadmill.”
Hoda: I actually didn’t think that. I remember thinking, Dan, you’re so crazy. When I was working in Illinois, it started to become a thing. My sister was saying, “I really think you need to drop a few of these. I’m not trying to be mean, but chop, chop.” I think I started crying. I’d been on TV for a few years, and I didn’t really notice. I wasn’t like, Hey, why aren’t the guys calling? They never did before, so why would they start?
What do you like best about yourself now?
Hoda: I’m not afraid to try for something that may seem far away. It’s worked that way for everything. I was the weird kid with the funny name and the stop-sign glasses. But I didn’t quit. And I’m interested in people. When I’m out with a crowd, I feel like I connect there. That’s probably where I’m at my best, whether it’s with people who come to the show or just in general. I’m interested in what they have to say.
(Meet the 87-year-old Ironman triathlete who also happens to be a nun.)
Kathie Lee: What I like best is that I wish and pray for the best for others. I can offer hope to people. I also know what I don’t like about myself. I can linger in self-pity at times. The second anniversary of my husband’s passing recently took place. People say, “I’m so sorry you lost your husband,” and I smile at them and say, “Oh, I didn’t lose him. I know exactly where he is.”
Are you open to dating again?
Kathie Lee: My mother asked me that just the other day. She said, “Would you be open to love again?” I said, “Mom, I’m open to anything the Lord has for me at this point in my life.”
What have you learned from your mothers?
Kathie Lee: Mine is 87, and she’s still the happiest human being you’ll ever meet. I call her every morning at 9 am, and I get her laughing within about 30 seconds. We mostly talk about her breakfast, which she lives for at this point. It’s always, always about sausage. I said, “Mom, that’s the way you spell joy, S-A-U-S-A-G-E.” One day she surprised me: She had oatmeal and some fruit. I said, “Mom, that’s unbelievable.” She said, “Well, it’s important to stay healthy while you’re dying.” That’s my mom.
[Editor's note: Our deepest condolences go out to Kathie Lee Gifford, whose mother, Joan Epstein, passed away on September 12, 2017, months after this interview took place. According to People, Joan passed in her sleep at home "in her beautiful bed" at age 87.]
(This woman forgave her mother after 30 years of estrangement and it healed her soul. Read her story here.)
Hoda: My mom ran a marathon when she was 60, and I remember that because I watched her complete something that made me realize you can do anything at any age. My mom is in her 80s, and she wears a two-piece bathing suit. There’s something about watching somebody live her best life and try new things. She’s always learning things. Because of her I don’t feel like the best parts are over, like, “Oh, sweetie, you’ve had your day.”
Kathie Lee: I always said, “On the day I die, I hope I learn something new.” I think one of the most important things to do as we’re growing older, other than be grateful, is to keep learning, be a student of something you’re passionate about.