From her days as a child growing up in the South Bronx and New York City, attorney-turned-journalist Sunny Hostin has parlayed her wealth of knowledge of the legal system into another successful career. While she began her journey as a federal prosecutor, Sunny’s early childhood passion for telling stories eventually came to fruition, and what was once just a “fanciful thought” became reality.
“I wanted to be a writer and a broadcast journalist,” says Sunny. “I’d watch ‘60 Minutes’ with my parents and practice telling stories in the mirror with a hairbrush.”
At that time, Sunny says there weren’t many role models that resembled her on TV, and it was scary for her parents, who risked it all to make sure their only child was super educated, to suddenly go off and vie for a TV career. “A non-traditional career scared my mom; she felt a lawyer or a doctor were the safe careers that would ensure financial stability.”
Today, the four-time Emmy Award winner and co-host of “The View” remains dedicated to advocating for marginalized communities and giving a voice to the voiceless. As a champion for the people, she’s proven that anything is possible.
In her new memoir, Sunny shares some of the most intimate details of her life. Recently, she sat down with BELLA for an in-depth conversation about her life, her work, and her commitment to helping others.
In your new memoir, “I Am These Truths,” you talk about the importance of education in your home starting at a young age. Would you say your passion for helping others comes from having a strong support system?
Not everyone has that type of home environment, and those that do have really supportive parents, or even one parent who may be working and doing everything they can, and that child might not see anyone out there who looks like them. They don’t have what I like to call a “possibility model.” If I could make it from the South Bronx projects onto “The View” stage, interviewing every presidential candidate, anyone can, but they need to see it’s possible. I had the imagination and the support, but not everyone has that. Education, plus opportunity, plus support is a winning combination; you just have to know it’s possible.
Besides your parents, who else was influential in your journey?
Someone once told me that every decision made about your life is made when you aren’t in the room. You must have a champion in that room that is willing to spend his or her power on you. I’ve had those champions throughout my life who were willing to expend their political power on me, and that’s really a blessing. I try to be that champion for others because I now have a seat at the table, now I’m in the room.
You share many personal stories in your book. What made you decide to open up your life in such a public way?
If you’re going to write about your life you have to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. You must be authentic. I think this was the right time for the book to come out because of what our country is going through. I was encouraged by my book agent, Ryan, who I met years ago in a writing class. Also, in speaking to Justice Sotomayor, I was told a story I should share. I felt that we are similar—we’re both lawyers and we’re both Latinas from the South Bronx. She pointed out the importance of having a platform, [and] of being a journalist having little Black and Latino children watch you, and how powerful that is. And then she implored me to not only have the book in English but in Spanish as well.
You talk candidly about your journey with IVF and the struggles you faced in becoming a mother. Was it difficult reliving this part of your life?
That was the hardest chapter to write; I was reliving every second of it. When I recorded the audio book I was sobbing—happy tears—because I have two great kids, but it was such a painful time in my life although worth every bit of it.
My kids didn’t know they were IVF babies, and it was something I had to talk to them about. They were kind of shocked and intrigued by it and were so thankful we wanted them that badly.
A recurring thread throughout your life has been the question of, “What are you?” Do you still deal with the question today?
Yes! Because I am mixed race, I’m constantly subjected to ‘Which box do I check?’ If I speak to a guest in Spanish, viewers are asking if I’m Hispanic today, even using the wrong terminology, or they’ll say, Sunny’s Black today—which one is it? The answer is both, every single day of my life. People have a hard time with race in this country, and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon, but I’m happy the conversation at least continues.
Along with writing your memoir, you’ve also written a novel. What prompted you to write a fiction book?
I used to travel a lot when I was with the justice department, and even with “The View,” pre-pandemic, I was in and out of airports. I love to read and would find myself looking for a beach read but couldn’t find one, especially one based in the African American community. My girlfriends told me summer reads were over, and I thought, I go to places like Martha’s Vineyards, Sag Harbor, Highpoint, and there’s this hip African American Huxtable theme no writes about, maybe I should. So I started writing, I pitched the idea, and I got a three-book deal with Harper Collins. Each summer a new book comes out, beginning next year.
Tell us about the first book, “Summer on the Bluffs.”
Oak Bluffs, which is on Martha’s Vineyard, is one of the few places in America where Black people were allowed to buy beachfront property. In the book we have a heroine—a fairy godmother who has these three goddaughters she’s mothered their entire lives. She’s a different type of mother, which was important to me to explore. One of them will inherit her home, and along the way there are twists and turns with the culmination of only one of the girls getting the house.
Have you conceptualized the next two books?
The next book is called, “Summer on Sag,” and the third one is, “Summer on High Point,” another two areas in the Hamptons where Black people were allowed to buy beachfront property.
You know firsthand how it feels to be a victim, and through your work, you help others to understand what that’s like. Would you say through projects like “Truth About Murder (with Sunny Hostin),” the docuseries you co-hosted and executive produced last year, you’ve been successful in doing so?
I hear it all the time, and it still surprises me when someone says his or her life has changed as a result of something I’ve done or said. I know I’m in the right place, making a difference, and that’s important to me. One of the things I’m interested in is all of these cases we’re seeing like Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arbery. No one has been arrested or held accountable, and these victims are dead and their families want justice. It’s powerful to tell these stories, and I want to continue to do these kinds of things.
Since 2016 you’ve been a co-host on “The View”, which is now in its 24th season; what do you think makes it such a success?
Barbara Walters had this idea to get a group of women around a table to do what we all do with our friends, talking and sharing a difference of opinions. What the twist is, you have women that come from different places in their lives, different decades, different viewpoints, talking about things most people generally don’t talk about. And we do—nothing is off the table. We do it every single day and are able to do it in a way where we can come back to the table as colleagues.
Is there anything you haven’t done yet that you would like to do?
I want to create more; producing is a goal of mine. I’d like to see my books become a series, and I’m working to make that happen. I also think it’s very important to be a part of the political process. I just don’t know yet what that looks like for me.
What advice do you have for others following a similar path?
First, that anything is possible. Also, when you’re in a place in your life when you can help someone, there’s nothing more important because you cannot really live a perfect day without doing something for someone who can’t repay you. When you have the opportunity to be the champion in the room, you must do it with great rigor.
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