Earlier this week, Hoda Kotb's co-host Jenna Bush Hager surprised her with the news that Oprah Winfrey would be appearing on their show

By Helen Murphy
February 07, 2020 12:35 PM
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Days after being surprised by Today co-host Jenna Bush Hager with the news that Winfrey would be a guest on Hoda & Jenna & Friends, Kotb grew visibly emotional when the legendary talk-show host stepped onto their set Friday morning.

As Winfrey came onstage, she offered hugs to Kotb and Bush Hager while the live studio audience cheered — and Kotb wiped away tears.

“It’s happening! It’s happening!” Winfrey, 66, said as she embraced Kotb.

“You made our year!” Bush Hager, 38, told her.

“Okay, I just need a moment,” Kotb said when the three sat down at the table. As she continued to wipe away tears, a tissue box was lowered down from the ceiling, to laughs from the audience.

“I can’t tell you — Oprah, I feel like I’ve been in this business a hundred years, and you know when people say, ‘You mean so much to me,’ but they’ve never met you, and I know maybe it always seems a little weird, but this is really one of those moments for me, so thank you,” said Kotb, 55.

Hoda Kotb, Oprah Winfrey and Jenna Bush Hager
| Credit: NBC

The Today co-host continued: “I watched you over the years, I’ve watched you lift people up. There’s only a couple people on the earth who you want to emulate in our business, and I watched you hold people’s hearts in your hand, and I remember thinking, like, ‘How does she do that?’ And you did it in such a way that was always so tender and real.”

“And the fact that you’re sitting here on this day is really kind of blowing my mind,” she added. “I’m 55, 56 — nobody knows, who cares — but it doesn’t matter, it just shows you that the kid in you is still in you when you walk in the door.”

Later on in the interview, Kotb teared up again as Winfrey shared an inspirational message with the live studio audience.

“I think that each one of us was born with a special gift to offer,” Winfrey said. “That’s why you’re here on the planet. And it’s your goal to figure out — we all have our jobs, we all go to work, we need to earn money. But everybody has a real job, and your real job is to figure out what is the real reason I’m here. Why am I actually here on the planet? What is the gift I came to offer?”

“2020 is about setting that ideal for yourself,” she added. “I know that whatever you name and claim, you can manifest. … A lot of people are waiting on God, waiting on the forces — it’s waiting on you, it’s waiting on your clarity.”

Later, Winfrey discussed how close friend Gayle King has been coping with the intense backlash to her asking WNBA star Lisa Leslie about Kobe Bryant’s 2003 rape case within a larger interview about the late NBA legend’s legacy.

She is not doing well,” Winfrey told Kotb and Bush Hager. “She has now death treats and has to now travel with security and she’s feeling very much attacked.”

Last month, Bush Hager and Kotb revealed that they would be adding a live studio audience to their show every Thursday and Friday, calling it Hoda & Jenna & Friends.

On Monday, Bush Hager surprised her co-host by telling her that Winfrey would appear on the second episode of the new show. She brought out a “surprise box” that played a video of Winfrey telling Kotb, “Hoda, it is going to happen this year!”

“What?!” Kotb replied in both shock and excitement as crew members backstage handed her an Oprah t-shirt to wear. “Wait, this Friday?”

Jenna Bush Hager and Hoda Kotb
| Credit: NBC

“Okay, so as you know, her 2020 vision tour is all about wellness, so we are filling the audience with people who want to share in this journey that may not be able to see her on tour,” Bush Hager said. “They are coming to see her here.”

“I need a minute,” Kotb responded. “The fact that we are going to have a studio audience Thursday is enough to blow our minds … “

“And then the second day is Oprah!” Bush Hager excitedly interjected. “Oprah!”