The View co-host Sunny Hostin does not shy away from sharing her opinions. But speaking up hasn’t always been easy for the soon-to-be 50-year-old TV personality. “Quite frankly, I’m sure being an outspoken woman of color has hurt me,” she said yesterday before a panel hosted by People en Español on Afro-Latina identities. “This Afro-Latina movement, this embracing of it is very new.”
Hostin was born in New York to a Puerto Rican mother and black father, and says she sees her dual identity as a positive influence in her life — it allows her to connect with diverse groups of people, both from her work on TV and in her daily life. But, she says, outsiders’ acceptance of her hasn’t always been so straightforward. “I’ve always had my feet planted in two worlds,” she says. “It wasn’t always easy because people want you to choose black or white, and I’ve had to live in the gray forever.”
Hostin went on to say that she’s experienced employers criticizing her for not being “black enough” or “Spanish enough.” She recalls hearing that she wasn’t “Latin enough” to be on the cover of a Spanish-language magazine while she was working at CNN as a legal analyst and host. She says even when being cast for The View, it’s possible people in the hiring room felt like she wasn’t representative of “what a Latina is.” And that hurt has been hard for her to overcome: “I always called myself a ‘black-tina.’ Spanish was my first language, and I grew up really embracing two cultures, but people were always very uncomfortable with it.”
Hostin hasn’t let backlash get her down. As she embraces turning 50 next month, Hostin has learned not to care what people think of her opinions or her identity. “I’m a truth-teller, and now I don’t care about what people think about my truth,” she says. And she’s teaching her 12-year-old daughter the importance of speaking up, as well. “She is fierce, and I’ve raised her that way,” Hostin says.
As for the next step in making space for more women of color to be recognized and find their voices, Hostin says listening is key. “As a woman of color, when I tell you that this is my experience, don’t question it — believe me,” she says. “I’m really tired of people telling me that I don’t feel this way, that I didn’t experience it this way, that perhaps I’m mistaken or confused. No. What I need, and I think women of color across the board need, is for people to hear our truth and believe us.”