In a candid interview to honor Black History Month, the Emmy winner talks to PEOPLE about race, The View, and shares her love for Whoopi Goldberg
By Marissa Charles
Sunny Hostin has nothing but admiration for Afro-Latino stars who are owning their identity.
Speaking to PEOPLE recently, The View co-host, 53, says it’s been refreshing to see stars, like West Side Story actress Ariana DeBose, embrace their roots and be “unapologetically Black.”
“I admire that there are folks, especially in media, as well as film, that are representing their Blackness and embracing it,” Hostin says. “That’s something that has just happened [in] my view in the past few years. And what’s nice is I’m tired of being alone in that. I’m no longer alone and it’s because of young people like Ariana.”
Anyone who watches The View on a regular basis knows that like DeBose — who received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for West Side Story on Tuesday — Hostin is a proud Afro-Latina.
The daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and an African American father, Hostin is proof that the two identities can co-exist in one person. And she’s not afraid to let people know it, either — especially those in the audience of The View and the readers of her 2020 book, I Am These Truths: A Memoir of Identity, Justice, and Living Between Worlds.
“I get, ‘Are you Spanish today or Black today?'” Hostin says of the pushback she receives on Twitter if she speaks in Spanish or addresses racism and Black Lives Matter on the daytime talk show.
“Every day I’m both, actually,” she continues. “And that’s how I respond because I think it’s important to respond [to comments like], ‘Sunny’s saying it with the Spanish accent.’ Well, no I’m saying it correctly because this is a Spanish word. It’s not an English word. It’s a Spanish word and I speak Spanish.”
While Hostin doesn’t read Twitter or Facebook often, she has asked her team to flag those types of comments because she sees them as a “teachable moment.”
“People are pretty hateful sometimes,” she notes. “But if I see, or my team flags… I do respond because I think it’s important.”
Facing hatred or confusion over her Afro-Latina identity is nothing new to Hostin, who was born in 1968, one year after the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court ruling that struck down laws that made interracial marriage illegal. But that doesn’t mean that being biracial was accepted within the community.
“There just weren’t a lot of people around that looked like me then,” she recalls. “There are so many more now.”
At home, her race wasn’t an issue. Outside her front door, however, she was faced with a barrage of questions.
“I had a difficult childhood. Not because of my nuclear family — we are still very close,” Hostin says of her mom Rosa and dad Willie. “But it was just the stares and the question[s]. I was asked things like, am I Samoan? … ‘Why is your hair so curly? Where do you get that from?’ Just weird things that, as a child, you’re 7 and you’re 8, and then you’re being called things like ‘zebra.’ That’s tough and it’s traumatic.”
Hostin’s parents were also “very clear” when it came to her identity, often telling her that it “really wasn’t anybody’s business.”
“That’s very empowering for a young child,” says Hostin, who is now a mom to two kids — son, Gabriel, 19, and daughter, Paloma, 15 — whom she shares with husband, Dr. Manny Hostin. “What they would say is, ‘No one gets to tell you what you are or who you are. You get to do that.'”
With Black History Month now in full swing, Hostin says she’s not just excited about the celebration of Blackness, but also that Blackness is becoming increasingly embraced in the Latinx community.
“There’s been a lot of anti-Blackness that I’ve been exposed to and that I’ve witnessed myself, but I see a change now,” she says.
Hostin is also helping to lead that change by celebrating BIPOC characters in her first fictional book, Summer on the Bluffs. The 2021 novel, which is set in Martha’s Vineyard, is being adapted into a TV series for Disney, the first major project from her recently created Sunny Hostin Productions.
Along with being an author, producer and devoted advocate for the Afro-Latina community, Hostin has been busy serving as a co-host on The View.
This season marks her fifth year on the show, and Hostin says one of her favorite moments includes interviewing Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Something else that she cherishes is her friendship with fellow co-host Whoopi Goldberg.
Goldberg, 66, is currently on a two-week suspension after saying that the Holocaust was “not about race,” during the Jan. 31 episode. She issued several apologies in the wake of her comments, and Hostin, whose maternal grandfather was Jewish, believes it was “sincere.”
“Let me say this, I’ve been on the show for five years. Whoopi is my dear friend and my colleague, and I adore her,” Hostin says. “And I think that her apology was sincere, and I look forward to working with her at the table.”
The lawyer-turned-journalist adds, correcting herself, “I should say, I don’t think, I know. I know her apology was sincere.”
Read this article on People.com.