It’s an unseasonably steamy spring day, and The View talk-show host and ABC legal correspondent Sunny Hostin is pushing a big, blue dumpster in the driveway of her Purchase home, a 22-room, 12,000 sq. ft. estate on 2.5 acres that once belonged to New York governor Herbert Lehman. While she’s still in full on-camera makeup, including lush eyelash extensions, she’s changed from the floral sheath she wore earlier on-set into light-wash, distressed jeans and a silky yellow pajama-style top with white piping. Her yellow clogs sport red ladybugs.
After appearing on-air earlier in the day, Hostin came home with a camera crew to film a segment about her chickens and how they make better pets than cohost Joy Behar’s dog, Bernie, for a future The View segment to be judged by fellow Westchesterite Martha Stewart. When a cameraman muses aloud that the dumpster can be seen in the shot, Hostin is the first to jump up and start moving it. (For the record, Hostin’s hens won.)
Born Asunción Cummings, Hostin lived in the Bronx until she was 8 years old, when her family moved to Stuyvesant Town because “my parents then felt that I’d have a better life in Manhattan.” Her mom, who lives in Hostin’s carriage house, is Puerto Rican and the director of a New York City nursery school. Her dad (her parents are divorced) is African-American and retired from a career in IT. Though he is a resident of North Carolina, he is a frequent visitor and an involved grandpa.
Hostin is a graduate of Binghamton University and Notre Dame Law School who began her legal career as an appellate law clerk to Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals Robert M. Bell and as a trial attorney for the Justice Department, as well as a federal prosecutor in Washington, DC. Her work prosecuting crimes against women and children was recognized with a Special Achievement Award from Attorney General Janet Reno.
Hostin first appeared on-air as a Court TV network commentator; a spot on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor followed. From 2007 to 2016, Hostin was a CNN host and legal analyst, gaining notice for her coverage of legal cases with social-justice issues, like the Trayvon Martin shooting. She began appearing as a guest cohost on ABC News’ Emmy Award-winning daytime talk show The View in 2014; she joined ABC in February of 2016 as Senior Legal Correspondent and analyst and became a permanent The View cohost that September. Hostin has won three Emmys for her work as a correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America and the network’s special, The President and the People.
Though she’s always had friends in Westchester, it was when Hostin’s college pal bought a house in New Rochelle that she discovered “you could be this close to the city and have grass and animals,” Sunny says. “It was kind of always a dream of mine when I was growing up to have a house and a yard.”
The Hostins’ — who include spouse Dr. Emmanuel Hostin, an orthopedic surgeon; son Gabriel, 16; and daughter Paloma, 12 — first house was in a family neighborhood in Pelham Manor. Wanting more room after having their second child, they found their current home, in late 2006. A 1918 Tudor, it’s tucked behind massive ironwork gates and located at the end of a long, winding driveway. Initially, their young son referred to it as “the spooky house.” But when the Hostins put it on the market briefly in 2016, he and the rest of the family rebelled, so they stayed put.
On another day soon after the chicken taping, I sit down with Hostin in her cozy on-set dressing room in Manhattan, complete with comfy couch, fluffy throw pillows, and a bright-orange mini-fridge, to chat about her life in Westchester. Having changed from the flowing orange wrap dress she wore earlier, on the air, she’s clad in casual gray tie-dyed sweats.
Hostin leaves home every day to drive into work by 7 a.m., dropping her mom off at her office along the way. Her days are long, not just because of her work schedule but also because of her commitments away from her job. She’s involved in a number of charities for which she may emcee an evening event, including the Bronx Children’s Museum and Safe Horizons, which supports domestic-violence victims. But whenever she returns home, Hostin is happy to be there.
“I almost feel like the air changes for me the minute I see the You’re entering Westchester County sign,” she says. “I never thought I’d be that person. I take that breath and just feel great.” Waiting for her, in addition to her six hens, are two rescued cocker spaniels, two vegetable gardens, and a beehive, which produced its first batch of honey this past summer.
The Hostins enjoy life locally, especially the nearby Purchase Community House, where they swim in the summer, the kids attend camp, and Sunny’s mom takes Zumba classes. Hostin also does yoga at the Bedford Post Inn, which she discovered during a girls’ getaway. A favorite dining spot for Southern- and Caribbean-influenced contemporary cuisine is New Rochelle’s Alvin & Friends, of which Hostin is a part owner.
On rare nights off, Hostin also likes Purchase’s tredici NORTH, Port Chester’s bartaco and Saltaire, and Fortina in Rye Brook. Hostin loves the little city of Rye, and enjoys sushi there at Fogama restaurant and browsing at Nest Inspired Home. Another favorite shop is Bedford’s Perennial Gardens (which had delivered a lilac tree to her shortly after this interview).
So how does living in such a fortunate community inform her work? “It’s not where I started,” she says, “but it’s such an honor to live where we live. I know there are those who don’t have these resources,” she continues. “So it keeps you grounded, faithful, and thankful, and very present.”
As for future plans: “I’m very happy at The View and would like to stay there until they don’t want me,” says Hostin, who also aspires to teach and have a lifestyle space and garden. “But I’m a public servant and lawyer at heart, so whatever opportunities allow me to serve.”
Rye freelance writer Laurie Yarnell, a former longtime Features Editor for WM, writes frequently about Westchester notables, including Hank Azaria, Georgina Bloomberg, and Joseph Abboud.