AARP Eye Center
Today, millions of viewers know lawyer, journalist and television host Sunny Hostin from ABC's The View, where she began as a cohost in 2016. Before arriving at the talk show, the three-time Emmy winner was a host and legal analyst at CNN, a fill-in coanchor for ABC News programs and a regular guest on the Fox News Channel. But Hostin's path to a successful TV career was often marked by an evolving sense of her own mixed-race identity as she confronted prejudice.
"What has always been difficult for me to understand is why there is so little room for people to fully embrace someone like me, someone with more than one cultural identity,” she writes in her 2020 debut book, I Am These Truths: A Memoir of Identity, Justice, and Living Between Worlds. Born to a Puerto Rican mother and an African American father, Hostin was raised by her teenage parents in the housing projects in the Bronx, New York. Hostin, 52, went on to graduate from Notre Dame's law school and become a federal prosecutor, a legal consultant on several TV programs and eventually a host at The View, an experience, Hostin shares below, that still strikes her as “fascinating” and “surreal.”
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
In this edited interview — originally posted on Facebook as part of the video series Real Conversations With AARP — Hostin discusses her heritage, tells how she came to change her name, and offers advice for other Afro-Latinas.
On her multicultural heritage
My grandmother, my mother's mother, was born in Puerto Rico. She is what we in Puerto Rico call a Taíno, she was a native there, indigenous to Puerto Rico, so sort of an Indian Puerto Rican. My mother's father is a Sephardic Jew, so Jewish but from Spain. And then my father is African American. So I am definitely multiracial.
The evolution of identity
Growing up, I was just a person who was Black. That is what I identified with in many ways because that is how I was seen. Now I'm able to identify all parts of me, but growing up in the ‘70s, that just wasn't something that I think people understood or acknowledged. It was almost that one-drop rule: You are Black. Now I think we have language for being multiethnic, biracial, Latin, Afro-Latina. There is so much language around it as we have evolved as a country and as a society, but certainly my 5-year-old self in kindergarten did not have the language. It just did not really exist then.