By Jeff Nelson
Photography by Emily Soto
The View cohost reveals that she underwent a breast reduction and liposuction – and why she’s happy she did.
“Can we turn the music up?” Sunny Hostin politely requests at her People photo shoot, where the View cohost is twirling around a SoHo loft in a sparkling LaQuan Smith gown. As he song request (the Mary J. Blige hit “Just Fine”) plays louder on the speaker, her smile grows wider, because Hostin is feeling herself, as Beyoncé – who’s also on Hostin’s playlist – would say.
And she has a good reason. Last year Hostin, 54, would never have felt comfortable posing in the sheer, curve-hugging dress she’s rocking at the shoot. But this past August the federal prosecutor turned talk show personality underwent breast reduction and liposuction after years of struggling with back pain and body-image issues. “I feel like a better version of myself,” Hostin tells People exclusively. “It was a health decision and a self-care decision.”
Now, with renewed confidence, Hostin wants to start a conversation about cosmetic procedures – and to destigmatize them. “I thought I would feel shame, like, ‘Oh my God, I’m doing plastic surgery like all these crazy celebrities.’ But I don’t feel shame at all,” she says. “And I hope sharing my story will help more people. If they’re feeling so body-conscious, the way I was – they can do what they need to do to feel better.”
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, doctors have seen an increasing demand for their services since the pandemic began. (A breast reduction and lift can range from $10,000 to $30,000, while lipo can cost from $8,500 to $30,000.) In the most recent study from ASPS, 23 percent of surgeons polled reported “double the business as compared to before the pandemic,” while 47 percent pointed ton “slightly more” business overall. Of course, these procedures are not risk-free. “All surgery has inherent risks,” says Dr. Ryan Neinstein, a New York City-based plastic surgeon and Hostin’s doctor. “We’re all striving to look and feel our best. When we do, it impacts all aspects of our lives.”
Hostin first began feeling self-conscious as a girl growing up in New York City. “By the time I was 16, I was a double-D,” says Hostin, whose struggles with her body image continued to evolve after she became a mom to son Gabriel, 20, and daughter Paloma, 16, with husband Emmanuel Hostin, 52, an orthopedic surgeon. “I couldn’t imagine my breasts would get bigger with childbirth – however they did.” And her insecurities only mounted when she joined The View full-time in 2016. “My waist was small, but my top was so big I would wear a minimizer bra and a sports bra or a binder all the time,” she says. “Or I would get a very large dress and then my stylist would put clips on the back of my dress so that everything would fit.”
Last April, as Hostin was getting dressed for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, she zipped up her Toni Maticevski gown and was shocked to find that the dress’s bra didn’t fit. “I was crying,” says Hostin, who wound up wrapping her chest in masking tape just to get by. “I sat there and didn’t eat anything. I couldn’t lift my hand because my boobs were going to fall out. [Musical group] Bell Biv DeVoe wanted to take a picture with me. I was like, ‘Oh God, they’re going to have these pictures of my boobs hanging out.’ “
Mortified, Hostin immediately booked an appointment with Neinstein and breast specialist Dr. Anna Steve. Hostin had actually consulted with Neinstein two years prior – but was dissuaded from going through with the procedure by her View cohost Joy Behar. “She said, ‘You could die with the anesthesia,’ and I got freaked out,” recalls Hostin. Her husband also objected because he was nervous about elective surgery, telling her, “You’re beautiful. You’re hot. You’re sexy.”
But Hostin didn’t feel that way. “I had stopped swimming, because what kind of swimsuit covers G-cup boobs? Old-lady swimsuits with little skirts on them. And I wanted my waist back after having children,” she recalls. “I was doing so many oblique exercises that my Pilates instructor was like, ‘I don’t think you’re going to change that. You can lose weight all kinds of ways, but you cannot get that.’ “
Committed to moving forward with the surgery, she waiting until just two days before her procedure to share her decision with her hesitant husband. “I said, ‘I’m not asking for permission or a discussion or input,’ ” she recalls telling him. ” ‘I’m just giving you information, because I have complete agency over my body, and I need to do this for myself.’ “
On Aug. 22, 2022, Hostin underwent a breast reduction and lift, as well as liposuction on her waist and chin. “It’s not glamorous,” says Hostin, who hired a private nurse to assist during her two-week-long recovery at home, which included drainage tubes to prevent blood and fluid buildup for three days, along with minimal scarring. “I was up and walking around in three days. I was back to work in two weeks, and I was doing Pilates in two months.” These days Hostin is happy and confident. “Now I prance around nude all the time at my house – I feel great,” says Hostin, who went from a G-cup to a C-cup. “I don’t know, you may see me naked on The View!” That’s something even cohost Behar might support. “Joy said, ‘I should’ve done mine 20 years ago, man.’ I was like, ‘You almost talked me out of this!’ She was like, ‘I was wrong. You look great!’ “
Hostin hopes viewers take note too. “I look through magazines and Instagram accounts. I always believed, ‘Oh, they must be clean eating.’ No, they’re not – a lot of them are taking something, or they’re getting plastic surgery. It’s their decision to keep it private,” she adds. “But I wanted to be really honest. And I’m so happy.”
Read more in the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.