Soledad O'Brien — former CNN anchor — is now focusing on her production company, Starfish Media Group. Married with four children — Sofia, 13, Cecilia, 11, and 9-year-old twins Charles and Jackson —Soledad chats with Celebrity Baby Scoop about how her foundation, the Soledad O'Brien & Brad Raymond Foundation, helps young women in their educational endeavors, her role as a special correspondent for Al Jazeera America, and how “everyone’s definition of ‘having it all’ is different.”
You created your foundation that helps young women in their educational endeavors by giving them opportunities and resources. What prompted you to start it?
I started the organization with my husband after Hurricane Katrina. We saw all these young women who were trying to figure out how they could move forward in their lives when they lost everything. They didn’t have money for college or any resources at all. I think it’s just having really great relationships with young people. I love being able to reach out to these women and help inspire them. I like helping them and I think that’s what my job is.
You go to colleges and university to speak to students about diversity in journalism. How long have you been doing this?
Oh gosh, forever. I’ve been doing it for at least 10 or 15 years. But it really began when I started doing the documentary series ‘Black in America.’ What I found in those documentaries was a conversation, not just among African Americans, but also among the nation about some of the issues that were facing African Americans. There were a lot of stories to tell that really were untold in the community and in the world. A lot of the documentaries were spurring these great conversations and we wanted to go talk to college students, as I find them especially enthusiastic and interested in dissecting why we are where we are and what we can do to change the direction of where we are.
You have a job that many can only dream of having. What is it like traveling the world to be on the front line for breaking news stories?
It’s awesome and an amazing opportunity, and the traveling is usually crazy. For example, when you’re covering a disaster, you’re holding big bags of stuff and bringing plastic bags and rubber bands. Those bands will help you tie up your pant leg when there’s slush, and you sometimes have to sleep in a car. It’s not glamorous, but it’s safe. We’ve also had all these great opportunities to meet incredible people and have a chance to do a great story. And that’s the incredible luxury. I feel very grateful for that.
Is there one story that you feel changed your life?
I feel very connected to the people of New Orleans, and I love following up on that story and seeing how they are doing. That story would probably be the one. It’s a really great opportunity and it’s nice to go to a community, dig in, and see people and how their stories get connected. I also go down to Haiti every year to volunteer at an orphanage that we’re doing a documentary in. New Orleans and Haiti were amazing stories, and I really connected with the people whose stories I covered. I think that’s partly why we started this foundation; we wanted to reach out and connect to someone’s life, successes, and opportunities. I didn’t just stand here and stop covering the story.
With a big family and a big career, do you find it hard to balance everything?
Yes, of course! It’s funny. … I was just on the phone with a girlfriend, and she asked me, ‘Do you have it all?’ To this, I said, ‘You don’t quote-unquote have it all!’ Everyone’s definition is different. I feel lucky that my family is healthy, my husband is a great partner, we live where we do, and I’m making bacon as I talk to you [laughs]. I like that. I think that with what I’m interested in doing, everything is good and comfortable. But I always tell people, ‘What is having it all?’ You should work to make the life you want to have. Your life may not involve children or being married. Your life might involve traveling all the time and living in hotels. That would be horrible for me, but that would be awesome for some people. I think that the key is finding what your ‘having it all’ is and then figuring out how to do it.