For years, the Today audience only knew of Hoda Kotb's boyfriend as "Boots." When Kotb talked with her fourth-hour co-host Kathie Lee Gifford about her weekends, nights out, or vacations, she'd mention her partner but never, ever by name.
January 20, 2015, Kotb was forced to introduce the world to her guy when British tabloid The Daily Mail published photos of the couple on the beach. And ever since, Kotb has been a pretty open book. Here's the incredibly sweet love story of the new Today host and her longtime love Joel Schiffman — otherwise known as Boots.
Love at first signing
Kotb met the financier in the summer of 2013 when speaking at an event for Wall Street professionals. She was signing books after her talk when Schiffman approached her. Before revealing his identity, Kotb shared the meetcute on the talk show Bethenny.
"It was one of those events they ask us to speak at and it was pouring rain and it was a bunch of Wall Street guys. I didn't even want to go," said Kotb. "They asked me to sign some books and one guy is like, Can you sign it to my grandma? And this guy walks up and he's like, I'll take a book. And I was like, Who do you want me to write it to — your girlfriend, your wife, your aunt? And he goes, Write it to me."
Afterwards, a from the event emailed Joel, who emailed Hoda back. They went on a date — and the rest is history.
Meeting each other's friends
Kotb and Gifford have co-hosted the boozy fourth hour of Today since 2007. (They'll continue to host that hour now that Kotb has replaced Matt Lauer as Today co-host, as well.) So, Schiffman meeting Gifford and her late husband, former football player and sports commentator Frank Gifford, was a big deal. Kotb talked about their first double date on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live.
"That went well," Hoda said. "Look, he loved [Kathie-Lee]. He met Frank — he was enamored. I mean, come on, he was on bended knee."
Frank Gifford passed away August 2015.
Billy Bush was filling in for Gifford the morning The Daily Mail published photos revealing the identify of Kotb's secret boyfriend.
"I'm looking at the Daily Mail online, and they're outing you and your boyfriend!" Bush exclaimed on-camera. "This is two years going you've protected this guy and they're outing you on the beach!"
Kotb responded: "Here's the thing … you know when you're keeping something so close to the vest? And I have kept this so close to the vest, I didn't even say his name. We called him Boots forever because we just showed his shoes [on the show].
"It's almost been two years, so you know what we decided: Why not? Joel is out from the shadows!" she said. "I feel some relief. I talked to him this morning and he said, Who cares? Who cares!"
The next step
In October 2016, Kotb revealed the couple was moving in together.
"Joel and I are getting an apartment together, so we went to see it with the measuring tape," Kotb revealed on her SiriusXM series The Hoda Show. "It's a little weird to be in your 50s and we're like Hey, we're moving in! It's like you're kids. It's so weird."
Though Kotb was married from 2005 to 2007 to tennis coach Burzis Kanga, it was still a big step in the relationship to get a place with her new beau.
"I was afraid to tell my own mother that I was moving in with my boyfriend. I was afraid. I don't know," Kotb said. "I know it sounds weird — I've been married. It's like, 'Whatever!' But it's weird. It's a little odd."
Starting a family
The then-52-year-old Kotb and 58-year-old Schiffman adopted baby girl Haley Joy in February 2017. In a People interview, Kotb explained that treatment for breast cancer left her unable to conceive. After moving in with Schiffman, who has a daughter from a previous relationship, Kotb broached the topic of adoption.
"I was afraid to even say it out loud, because then it felt so real," Kotb told the magazine. "I said, Think about it for a day or a week or whatever. And he said, I don't need a day. Let's get this journey going. At that point I blubbered like a baby. It was like the dam burst."
Kotb expained to the magazine that they worked with a New York adoption agency and left Schiffman's name off the paperwork to simplify the process.
"Haley will call him Dad," she said.
Kotb and Schiffman recently celebrated their four-year anniversary — but when it comes to tying the knot, the anchor is in no rush.
"I've gone down that road once, so I would've normally said definitely not," said Kotb said in 2016. "So the fact that I'm saying I don't know is saying something."
Kotb explained falling for Schiffman was a bigger risk than considering marriage again.
"My last risky move, and I don't call it a risky move anymore, was falling in love," Kotb said. "There is something about the later-in-life portion of the program. You meet someone and you think to yourself, 'Wow, I didn't know I could feel like this at my age.'"