The first thing you notice about “The View” Sunny Hostin is that she really lives up to her name. When she and I met in her dressing room (complete with chic framed photos, a plush sofa, and an uber-organized makeup vanity) at the ABC studios near Columbus Circle, the temperatures were clocking in at a high of 14 degrees F and a low of 4 degrees F—and yet, she warmed the day right up with her bright smile and cheery demeanor.
To be fair, Hostin has plenty in her life to smile about right now. She lives the best of both city life (at work in Manhattan) and suburban life (at home in Westchester, where she loves to garden and tend to her bee hives and chicken coop). She’s killing it as part of the tight-knit “sorority” of diverse co-hosts on “The View” (alongside Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Meghan McCain, and Abby Huntsman) and as the Senior Legal Correspondent (for which she’s an Emmy-winner)for ABC News. She co-owns a restaurant in New Rochelle called Alvin & Friends that counts Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as a regular. And, most importantly in her eyes, she’s enjoying a thriving relationship with her teenage son, Gabriel, and tween daughter, Paloma.
“My son is 16 and my daughter is 12 … and I have loved every single stage of being a mom, and I feel like it gets better and better,” she gushes. “Everyone told me that it gets harder … But I just feel like it’s not that it gets harder, it just changes. It’s an important job, being a mom, and I’ve loved every single minute of it.”
Hostin, 50, also truly loves the work she does. A lawyer who long harbored dreams of being on television, Hostin came to “The View” via a career path paved first with a law degree and her natural gift for public speaking, and stints at Court TV, Fox News, and CNN.
“[Growing up], I definitely wanted to be a journalist and I wanted to tell other people’s stories. But at the time, and this was pre-Oprah, my mother was horrified at the thought of her kid who was smart and who she had invested so much in saying: ‘I want to do television!’ She was like: ‘No one looks like you on television! What are you talking about?’ She really didn’t get it, that I wanted to tell other people’s stories,” Hostin recalls, adding that though her father encouraged her dreams, her mother advised her to pursue law school. “I loved law school and it was such a great fit for me, but in the back of mind I kept thinking: ‘I really should be doing something else.’”
After studying journalism undergrad at SUNY Binghamton and then going to law school at Notre Dame, Hostin went on to work as a trial attorney for the Justice Department and federal prosecutor before deciding to give the stay-at-home-mom life a try after giving birth to her son. “After I had my son, I thought I was going to be a stay-at-home mom, but that wasn’t a great fit because I was driving everyone crazy,” she says. “I decided I was going to be the best stay-at-home mom ever! I was making my own food for Gabriel and I was the best dog owner and the best gardener and it was just too much.”
During this time, Hostin attended a law conference where she was called upon to speak in public—afterwards, she was approached by Sabrina Thompson, a producer for Court TV, who complimented her on her speaking prowess. Two weeks later, Hostin was on-air on Court TV; about six months after that, she was making appearances on “Nancy Grace” and Fox News; and another short six months later, she was a regular on CNN as a host and legal analyst. Eventually, she came to ABC as an overnight anchor for ABC News, and began guest-hosting on “The View” in 2012, where she has now been an official co-host since 2016.
During a moment of calm between taping an episode of “The View,” and rushing back to Westchester to gather snacks for her daughter’s basketball game that day (“I’m the 7th grade basketball parent … I’m the one who brings the snacks”), I caught up with Hostin about balancing city and country, work and family, and her personal passions and hobbies (“You know who I got into bees? Whoopi Goldberg! She’s becoming a beekeeper this spring!”).
Your kids are 16 and 12—how has the adjustment been as a mom as your kids get older?
It is going really well. I hear all these horror stories from other parents—like: “Oh! You’re going to hate the teenage years!” But I haven’t really had that. Certainly, they’re growing and trying new things—actually, my son just got his learners’ permit for driving last weekend, and of course, my friends said it was going to be horrible, but it was kind of cool! He’s like: “Can I drive home from the post office?” and I was like: “Sure!” He was driving kind of fast—I had to say: “Hey, wait a minute!”—he’s got kind of lead foot and the speed limit is 35 on our street. But I just liked seeing the independence.
What does your family like to do together?
Both of my kids are athletes and my daughter plays 7th grade volleyball, basketball, and track and field, and my son just decided to stop swimming—he’d been swimming since he was like 2—and now concentrates just on football and track and field. I spend a lot of time going to the games. I have a game today for my daughter and we spent Saturday at the New Balance indoor track meet. We are also looking at colleges for my son—I can’t believe he’s graduating in 2020! We’re a very active family, so we do a lot of outdoor things. Yesterday it was about making sure my chickens were warm enough because it was like 1 degree out when we woke up!
I love that you keep chickens at home—but I was wondering: How do you keep them warm in the winter?
We added extra hay, we made sure that all the windows in the coop were closed, and the kids helped me. We actually bought some heating pads for the chickens and we bought a heated roost bar and we also put Vaseline on their waddles so that they didn’t get frostbite. It sounds crazy, but … we put this blue ointment [on one of them]—we have one Bantam chicken and we were a little worried about her because she’s smaller than the others, and she doesn’t want to huddle with them, so we wanted to make sure she was the warmest one.
I’m eager to hear about your bees as well!
I’m fascinated by bees because they’re prehistoric and they’ve been around forever. People have used honey as a salve, it’s used to fight infection, and it’s one of our ancient ointments. My grandmother from Puerto Rico used to use it when I would get scrapes. She said it would protect the skin from scars. I always thought that everyone did that but I guess they don’t? So it has been something that I was always interested in … I’ve read a lot about how bees are becoming extinct, and we really have to think about that. If bees become extinct, where’s our food coming from? It’ll be catastrophic!
It’s so great that you’ve spoken about your passion for bees quite a bit on “The View.”
I found this company Best Bees and they installed the bee hives [at my house] … I befriended the owner of the company—his name is Noah—and he is the most interesting guy ever. He comes to our house and what was supposed to be a 30 minute meeting became a three hour lesson on bees and beekeeping and honey … He taught me how to harvest honey and he taught my daughter how to make candles from the bees’ wax. We are out of control! Of course, I brought him to the show because I made honey and beekeeping some of my Favorite Things for Christmas. He works with NASA and Whole Foods—he’s a bee whisperer. I introduced him to [my co-host] Whoopi Goldberg, and now he’s been at Whoopi’s house. But Whoopi’s getting two bee hives so now I have to get another hive because I can’t be out-bee’d by people! I have to be the top beekeeper!
You have your bees, chickens, and family all out in Westchester, but you grew up in the Bronx, and you work in Manhattan. Did you always see yourself moving to the suburbs?
I always wanted to have a house. I would watch movies and we’d go to Puerto Rico and see houses. I do love the city life, and I don’t think I could live in a place where I couldn’t get to a city within an hour or a half an hour because I love the energy. I remember when I went to law school and undergrad, really, I felt like I missed the pace and the energy. So I’ve always lived within traveling distance to a city, but I did want this kind of life.
Do you have any tips for parents thinking about making the move to the suburbs?
To be sure, it’s not the easiest transition, because there’s the travel time, especially if you work in the city—I have to build in at least an hour every day. The restaurants close early and it’s not like the city that never sleeps. You don’t have the same amenities, for sure, but there really is something special about, when you leave the city … I remember seeing the snow fall and actually seeing the glistening of the snow while walking my dog. I love it.
Switching gears a bit—let’s talk about your work. What has your experience been like on “The View”? What do you enjoy about it?
What I like most about it is that it’s such an incredible, incredible platform. It’s a legacy show—there aren’t that many shows that have been on for over 20 years, and have this mix of pop culture, current events, politics, and you have five women who are from different backgrounds, and we’re talking about the stuff that everyone is talking about. A lot of people have tried to duplicate or replicate what we do, but they don’t do it as well and I’m not sure why. I think that it’s probably multi-factorial, but it’s because we just know how to do this, and it’s just the legacy of it all. I love being part of that—it’s like a sorority that has only 22 members.
What are some of the challenges of the job?
I love being able to reach people where it matters for them and be a voice for the community—it’s wonderful and it’s a real privilege—but with that comes a tremendous responsibility and that can be very hard sometimes. Because, one, you completely lose your anonymity in a way that I don’t know that I expected. I was on CNN for many, many years … but then all of a sudden I’m on “The View” and three million people watch this show. So you get on the train as a native New Yorker and people are staring at you … It’s very different for someone like me, a kid from the Bronx.
What’s the dynamic like with your co-hosts?
I think the mix is good because we all understand that this is different and unique and we protect each other. And we’re lead by someone who has been on the show forever, Joy Behar—we listen to her, she’s been through it all, she’s seen it all. Whoopi moderates—and she’s also been through it all and seen it all. So we have a very good support system and that’s extremely helpful. I think, without that, it would be extremely difficult. We also leave our disagreements at the table and, really, if we had people who didn’t understand that, it would be impossible, because we tackle really tough, tough issues.
Between work, motherhood, and your personal passions, what does the work-life balance equation look like for you?
I really put my family first. It’s more important to me than anything else … There are certain things that will fall by the wayside but I will have the snacks for my daughter’s game today. I prioritize what’s important to me. I have everything on my Google calendar—everything! I print it out, usually on Sunday night so I know what my day and my week and my month all look like. I make sure that my kids’ stuff is prioritized and my family’s stuff is prioritized. To be sure, some things fall by the wayside, unfortunately. I’m sure it has happened to every working mom, and stay-at-home mom … it just happened to me recently: My son is taking this SAT prep course and I could have sworn it started at 1:30pm last week, but it was at 1pm. We showed up at 1:30pm and he missed half an hour. But hey, he was there and he’ll live.