Soledad O'Brien: A woman of many backgrounds
'I'm a light-skinned black girl with fuzzy hair who’s got freckles'
“Their message to us growing up was don’t let things get in your way, just keep moving around and figuring out what you want to do and working around it. The Supreme Court didn’t overturn the ban on interracial marriage until a year after my youngest brother was born – and he was the sixth child. We’re really not so far removed from that era in time.”
Honored by Irish America magazine, theNational Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and winner of the Groundbreaking Latina award, it’s obvious that every part of O’Brien’s heritage is proud to claim her.
Says O’Brien, “Every culture sees their own culture in me. I remember my uncle from Australia said, ‘You look so Australian.’ It’s the freckles.
“I look like an O’Brien. If you saw my dad you’d agree. When I was filming Latino in America and I interviewed a wife who was Dominican and her husband who was Puerto Rican and she said, ‘I read you’re mother’s Cuban, I knew you were one of us!’
“I love that in the black community that people consider me to be someone who contributes on all fronts. There’s something very nice about being an insider and an outsider. As a journalist I think there’s a plus to that.”
Has she ever been to Ireland? “I have actually! I was asked in the past to give speeches in Dublin so I’ve only been there so far. I loved it.
“My husband loves Ireland too -- his father is Scottish and he’s been to the countryside there a lot. As our kids get older we are dying to go and to bring them, to show them their heritage.”
O’Brien is married to banker Bradley Raymond. They have four children, two daughters and twin sons.
In situations where other people wonder if they fit, O’Brien feels she never fits 00 so ironically she always fits.
“Whether it’s working moms, or Afro Caribbeans, or Latinos or Irish people or Australians, you can see the inside story and the outside one.”
But growing up, O’Brien did not at first see the value of her cross-cultural background.
“It didn’t feel cool. When I was a teenager I had a freakish name and big poufy hair that didn’t do what anybody else’s hair did and I was part of family who didn’t blend in. It was hard,” she recalls.
O’Brien this week will premiere her remarkable CNN documentary Black In America 2 (the original broadcast, Black in America, seen last summer, attracted an astounding 16 million viewers, one of the largest audiences ever for a seasonal documentary). Is she nervous?
“Last year there was tons of word of mouth. I mean, tomorrow night (Wednesday, July 22) we’ll do a live pre-show,” she says.
“But you know what’s funny? When you do a documentary it’s done. You pop it in and you hit play and you hope people will appreciate and respond to the months and months you put into it.
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