When viewers watch Sunny Hostin ’90 on the top-rated ABC talk show The View every weekday, few of them realize the profound effect that Binghamton University had on shaping her life and career.
Hostin grew up with a Puerto Rican mother and a Black father in a South Bronx housing project, and upstate New York presented an entirely different world. At Binghamton, she found lifelong friends, earned her degree in English and rhetoric, and made choices that would lead her to getting her JD at Notre Dame Law School.
During her successful career as a federal prosecutor, Hostin began to appear on CourtTV, and later, Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor and CNN. She has co-hosted The View since 2016.
As The View celebrates its 25th season this fall, Hostin understands the responsibility that comes with being on a show seen by millions of people around the globe.
“When I prepare for the show, I think about everything I’m going to say, not just for how it’s going to reflect on me, but my family and my community,” she says. “That includes Latinos and African Americans, but also my law school and Binghamton, because one of the things the press will say is, ‘She’s a graduate of Binghamton — look at that dumb thing she said!’”
What led you to attending Binghamton?
I applied to the top 25 schools at the time. I did not have the money or the resources to attend university, and Binghamton offered me a full, merit-based scholarship through the Educational Opportunity Program, so I jumped at the chance. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
What do you feel are some lessons you learned while here at Binghamton, either in or out of the classroom, that still resonate with you today?
Because I skipped a grade, I started college early, at 16. So I grew up at Binghamton — I learned most of my life lessons, not only academically but all of my social skills. I learned how to make friends and how to keep friends, and I had my first boyfriend there. I wasn’t allowed to date when I was in high school, because I started when I was 12 and left at 16, and I was raised in a pretty strict Catholic household.
I learned resilience, too. My parents thought I should be a lawyer or a doctor. I loved animals, and I thought about medicine or veterinary medicine. I was a biology major for three years, and then I realized I’m not really that good at science! I would study really hard for a B. I was used to always excelling.
I shifted gears and became an English major because I love to write and communicate. I was given the confidence to be able to switch gears and to reimagine what my career could look like and what life could look like. My four years at Binghamton then became five. I think most people would feel that that was a failure, but what I learned is that you don’t really make bad decisions — you make the decision that’s right for you at the time.
Afterward, I wanted to be a broadcast journalist, but I switched gears and went to law school. Then I was a practicing lawyer, and I was very successful for a long time, but I realized that I really did want to pursue a career in television. I gave myself permission to try to do that, and I’ve done that successfully. More recently, I realized I’m still the person who loves to write, and I gave myself permission again to switch gears. Now I’ve written two books, and I’m working on a third.
What are some of your favorite memories from Binghamton?
I have so many! Most of my closest friends come from my time at Binghamton, and some of the best times were just hanging out in the student union with them.
I also remember when the Wailers (from Bob Marley and the Wailers) came on campus. They played outside on the quad, and we were hanging out and listening and dancing. We got to hang out with them afterward, which is something that I do a lot now — I get to hang out with musicians and actors — but at 17 years old, it was pretty cool. I even named my dog Marley, so you know I’m a huge fan. I was also the campus queen — I won the campus beauty pageant. I recall a lot of fun at the Rathskeller, and the Nature Preserve is just beautiful.
What are some of the joys and the challenges of doing a daily show like The View?
It’s a lot of work. Preparing for it, you have to be very well versed in the hot topics of the day. I make sure that I’m watching and reading all the latest news.
Some of the joys are getting to talk about what is most pressing in our country every single day and having a platform that is pretty powerful and resonates with so many. I’ve been able to interview every single powerful politician in the country, including the current president and vice president of the United States.
I also get to work with five incredibly smart, engaged and powerful women. I’m working with Whoopi Goldberg, and I never thought that I would say that! I’ve been to her home, and my children call her — it’s kind of otherworldly. I work with Joy Behar, who is this comedic phenom. I [worked] with Meghan McCain. She wanted me next to her at her father’s funeral, and I know her mother quite well. We’re actually great friends, which people are always very surprised about because we’re so different.
Ana Navarro was just FaceTiming me yesterday, because she likes to do that very late at night. She doesn’t seem to sleep! When my father was looking for a place in Florida, Ana cooked dinner at her house for my parents, my husband, my daughter and me. That’s really special to have these relationships.
The incredible thing about The View is we’ve been on 25 years. It’s almost like you’re part of this sorority. There have been only been a couple dozen hosts, so it’s something pretty special to be a part of.”
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