Diversity Woman Magazine

FALL 2014

Leadership and Executive Development for women of all races, cultures and backgrounds

Issue link: https://diversitywoman.epubxp.com/i/385684

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Page 45 of 71

44 D I V E R S I T Y W O M A N Fa l l 2 0 1 4 d i v e r s i t y w o m a n . c o m stayed home with Sunny. Tey lived with William's mother in the South Bronx until they could aford their own place. Rosa's mother, who didn't speak English, provided support as well. "My parents made huge sacrifces for me," says Hostin. "We would go out to restaurants, and they would make sure that I ordered frst, then would see how much money they had left over so they knew what they could order. I was their everything. Tey often said their only goal in life was to make sure that I succeeded." It certainly helped that Hostin had the smarts. She start- ed reading when she was four—not Green Eggs and Ham but Te New York Times. She began kindergarten a year early and skipped ffth grade. She started high school at 12 and college at 16 (Binghamton University, on full academic scholarship). Growing up, Hostin was acutely aware of her race and ethnicity. "My parents would tell me stories about when they would go to Georgia to visit an uncle who was in the armed services, and the KKK would run them out of town because they assumed my mother was white and she was with a black man. And that racism wasn't just in the South. When they tried to get an apart- ment in Manhattan, they kept getting turned down. So my mother applied for the apartment on her own, and instead of using her birth name, Rosa, she used the name Rose on the ap- plications. She got the apartment. And then there we were, the chocolate chips, showing up on moving day!" Te prejudice wasn't just coming from the outside. "My grandparents didn't want my parents to get married," she says. "My mother's side was very concerned about 'passing' in society and thought that her being married to a black man with a black daughter would doom us to a more difcult life. My father's family gave him pushback because my father was the golden child. His brother had drug problems and spent time in prison, as did some of his cousins. I would say my mother was never truly accepted by his family." Growing up in the midst of violence, but in a loving home that encouraged her to succeed, drew Hostin to the law. She earned her law degree from Notre Dame University. She says she was driven not only to pull herself and her family out of poverty and away from violence but also to help others fnd justice and make the world a better place. Her background helped make her successful. "As a prosecutor, I would go into the ghetto and interview peo- ple," she says. "I was very comfortable doing that. It also helped me gain trust as both a prosecutor and a TV reporter—people see that I came from the same place. Tey know I'm not some sort of rich-kid television anchor who can't relate to people." After graduating from law school, Hostin worked as a law clerk, then moved into private practice. Next, she joined the Depart- ment of Justice's antitrust unit but wanted to work on something more meaningful, so she became an assistant United States attorney specializing in child sex crimes, at which she thrived. She was honored by then Attorney General Janet Reno with a Special Achievement Award for her prosecution of child sexual predators. Hostin then moved into the private sector as a managing di- rector of business intelligence and investigations at Kroll, the world's leading risk consulting company. By this stage, Hostin was fnancially secure and successful be- yond her parents' wildest dreams. But she still wasn't satisfed. She wanted to make a bigger impact. So she joined Court TV as a commentator in 2006, which led to a spot on Fox News' Te O'Reilly Factor. Her ability to quickly parse and analyze a complicated legal case and fawlessly (and fearlessly) debate O'Reilly and others caught the attention of CNN President Jonathan Klein, who signed her to a contract in 2007 as the legal analyst on CNN's fagship morning show, American Morning. Hostin's star rose quickly. She has covered many of the foremost legal and political stories of the last seven years, in- cluding the Bernie Madof investment fraud, the Eliot Spitzer prostitution investigation, the Michael Vick dogfghting ring, the Duke University rape scandal, and the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman trial following the death of Trayvon Martin. As a result, increasingly she has been invited to publish schol- arly and popular articles and to moderate and speak on panels at universities and nonproft organizations across the country. Hostin considers the 2012 George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case the turning point in her career. Zimmerman—a Latino-Caucasian man who fatally shot Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African American—was acquitted under Florida's "stand-your-ground" law (essentially on grounds of self-de- fense), which led to a frestorm of protest. Up until that incendiary case, Hostin says she was hampered by two factors: she was tied to the studio, and she held great admiration for broadcast journalist Soledad O'Brien. "When I frst started at CNN, Soledad O'Brien was doing her Black in America series," explains Hostin. "I was such a fan. I would watch her on the air and look at how she did her hair and the way she spoke and how she held herself, and for a good year I was probably doing a Soledad O'Brien impersonation. I wasn't being authentic. "But the Trayvon Martin story changed that. I had been a stu- dio analyst, and now I begged to leave the studio and go report in the feld. I told them, 'You guys are sending out reporters with no legal background. Te bottom line is that I'm going to see things in that courtroom that no one else can see. I can es- tablish relationships with the lawyers that no one else can. Tey know me—I'm one of them.' "Tey agreed, and so when I got into the feld, I was complete- ly in my element. Because of my training, and because I'm also SUNNY HOSTIN PRECEDENT SETTER I REALIZED THAT BEING A LEGAL ANALYST, BRINGING THE JUDICIAL

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