Diversity Woman Magazine

FALL 2012

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

Issue link: https://diversitywoman.epubxp.com/i/91258

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Page 55 of 79

Soledad O'Brien O'Brien's success hasn't been about pageantry or good looks, though it doesn't hurt to have been named one of People maga- zine's Most Beautiful in 2001. Her journalism career is marked by bringing us smart, well-reported stories that confront tough questions, even if they sometimes make us feel uncomfortable. "I was pre-med in college, dropped out, and decided to dig into people's lives, because there are people who work hard and do heroic things," O'Brien says. "Tere are also terrible and tough stories out there. I want to illuminate those stories." Her office is riddled with memorabilia of a distinguished career—among the items is an Emmy she received for her coverage of Haiti after the earthquake and a gun she got from the sheriff of St. Bernard's Parish, a thank-you gift for being one of the first reporters to dive into the chaos left by Hurricane Katrina. O'Brien's career has been largely shaped by her childhood. She was born to an Australian-Irish father and a Cuban mother of African descent, who fell in love at a time when it was illegal to eat with—much less marry—someone of a different race. Her tan skin and hair made her different from her classmates and neighbors in Long Island, New York, where she grew up. It wasn't always easy, but her parents' story and how they raised six children inspired her to pursue a career in journalism. To- day O'Brien is proudly claimed by the Irish, black, and Hispanic communities. In 2010, the National Association of Black Jour- nalists named O'Brien Journalist of the Year. She also received the 2009 Medallion of Excellence for Leadership and Commu- nity Service Award from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus In- stitute and was named among Irish America magazine's Top 100 Irish-Americans. Illuminating tough stories and making diverse stories rel- evant are trademarks of the Harvard grad's career. (O'Brien returned to college to finish her remaining classes while preg- nant with her daughter, Sofia, and graduated in 2000.) White people are fearful of coming across as racist, and blacks are fearful of being labeled constant complainers. [In America] was a way to let us discuss race. In 2007, O'Brien launched the In America series on CNN, starting with "Black in America," followed by "Latino in Amer- ica," and "Muslims in America." "People are fascinated with race," O'Brien says. "However, white people are fearful of com- ing across as racist, and blacks are fearful of being labeled con- stant complainers. It's a discussion rife with stereotypes, but [the program] was a way to let us discuss race." Te series was an honest representation of what groups of people face—failures and triumphs—living in the United States, not just about perpetuating stereotypes. For example, 54 DIVERSITY WOMAN Fall 2012 in the second installment of "Black in America," we encoun- ter Tony Rand, at the time a Democratic senator from North Carolina, and we watch as he meets black relatives at a family reunion. In the fourth installment, we are introduced to blacks who are making things happen in Silicon Valley. With "Latino in America," O'Brien shows the sad reality that children are held in immigration detention centers, but we also meet Marlen Esparza, a Mexican-American boxer who, before she became a cover girl, competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics, becoming the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic medal for boxing. Tese www.diversitywoman.com

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