Kathie Lee Gifford and her daughter Cassidy open up about their famous family: 'People probably thought my brother and I were destined to turn into lunatics'

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Kathie Lee Gifford and her daughter Cassidy open up about their family. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Kathie Lee Gifford and her daughter Cassidy open up about their family. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers) (Getty/Quinn Lemmers)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child rearing.

To say Cassidy Gifford is following in her mother’s footsteps isn’t hyperbole: Carnival Cruise Line recently announced that she will serve as godmother to its newest ship, Carnival Celebration. The actress was surprised with the news by mom Kathie Lee Gifford, who was godmother to Carnival Celebration’s namesake ship before her daughter was even born. The Emmy-winning TV personality served as Carnival’s spokesperson starting in the 1980s, and Cassidy first started sailing as an infant alongside older brother Cody and their dad, the late sports broadcasting legend Frank Gifford, while Kathie Lee worked. Speaking to Yahoo Life from Cassidy's kitchen in Nashville, Tenn., the mother-and-daughter duo opened up about Gifford family values and what traveling together as a family meant to them.

Kathie Lee says her long-term partnership with Carnival — which, she notes, outlasted her TV hosting relationships with both Regis Philbin and Hoda Kotb — allowed her to "be able to work and still be with my kids."

"[Cody and Cassidy] ultimately wound up in many of the commercials. But when they were going down the waterslides, they weren’t acting! That was the epitome of fun for us!” she says.

The TV host became a grandmother (or "Bubbe," the name she goes by) for the first time this year when Cody and his wife, Erika, welcomed a baby boy named Frank. Kathie Lee says that, as her children have blossomed into adults, she's learned to have faith that she gave them the right guidance growing up.

“When my kids turned 21, I told them, ‘I’m here but I raised you right and I trust you. I just want to be the kind of mom you want around,'" Kathie Lee says.

“Her strategy was, 'my trust is yours to lose,'” Cassidy adds. “[My brother and I] were given a lot of freedom, but she was strict. If you didn't say 'please,' you didn't get it. If you didn't say 'thank you,' it was taken away.”

Cassidy adds that the manners her mom instilled and the family’s close-knit vibe sits well with her as she approaches her 30s. And while growing up with famous parents had some perks — like going to the Today Show for concerts in her youth — she maintains that her upbringing was pretty normal.

“I’m not a parent, but I always thought it was great that we sat at dinner and talked about our day. We were a family. People probably thought my brother and I were destined to turn into lunatics!” Cassidy says with a laugh.

Kathie Lee chimes in, adding that being on TV every day was simply a job and a way of life for the Gifford family. Raising kids as normally as possible was the real priority for her as a parent.

“It was a way I made my living,” she says says of being on morning television. “Their father went off and announced a football game or the Olympics. It was normal to [my kids], but seems abnormal to people who don't live in a famous family. It was important to me that they had friends whose parents weren’t in show business. I never taught [my kids] that they were more 'special' than anyone else — maybe more blessed with stuff and opportunity. But I also said, ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ If you are blessed, you need to be a blessing to others. We tried to keep a healthy balance.”

The singer, actress and author is no longer waking up with Today viewers. Despite her career success over the years, she's not quite at ease with some of the ways in which the industry has evolved.

“I was the last person on the planet to think I’d be famous; I’m still stunned by the career I’ve had,” Kathie Lee admits. “I never felt famous — I felt blessed. Regis and I were the very first people who made a living talking about their lives [on television]. [Back then], I wasn’t even married. I was just starting to date Frank, and we had newspapers and paparazzi — but I can't imagine working in today’s cancel culture. It’s a horrible new world.”

“It’s terrible,” agrees Cassidy, who for her part stays off social media as much as possible. “I use [social media] for work but I find it overwhelming and awkward. I still hand-write most things. I’m glad I wasn’t allowed to have social media [when I was young] and [nowadays], I tune it out.”

“I realized a long time ago that people have no power over you unless you give it to them,” adds her mom.The people whose opinions truly matter to you are the people closest to you.”

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