EXCLUSIVE: Soledad O’Brien Talks Online Harassment & Body Shaming

Soledad O’Brien Shows How Horrific the Internet is for High-Profile Women of Color

As a high-profile Black Latina, Soledad O’Brien has, unfortunately, had her share of online harassment – and some. The part-Cuban television anchor and executive producer recently headlined the Mom 2.0 Summit to speak with 700 digital influencers about trolls and has even partnered with Dove for its #SpeakBeautiful campaign to encourage positivity, not hate, on the Web.

O’Brien, who’s also the CEO of multi-platform production company Starfish Media Group – yes, the mujer does a lot! – spoke with Latina about her experiences with online harassment, how she handles bullies and her advice for those battling shaming trolls.

MORE: The Horrifying Harassment Latinas Face Online

Why was online body-shaming an issue you wanted to speak out about?

It’s really just body-shaming in general. So many of these conversations are now happening online that our focus became online. And it’s not just body-shaming; It’s the overall sense of making people feel badly about who they are. We took a shift from doing this in people’s faces or behind their backs to doing it on social media. It seems equally vicious.

Women, particularly women of color, experience the most violent forms of online harassment, especially if they are public figures. What are some of the worst things you’ve been told online?

You can imagine. I’ve head: “Go back to Africa.” “You’re stupid.” “You’re a whore.” “You’re ugly.” The other day, someone told me I have a five-head, which I guess means I have a big forehead. People often accuse me of reverse-racism, and then they call me some anti-Latino slur. You name it, and I’ve heard it. That’s what happens when you’re on social media. People who would never say these things to your face suddenly feel comfortable doing so online.

How do you usually respond to online harassment?

At the beginning, it was very upsetting. It would throw me off.  I’d feel fine, and then I’d start thinking about the horrible thing someone wrote me and wonder if it’s true. It’s gotten to a point that it happens so frequently that I’ve come up with a few sayings that would make me feel better while also answering them but not feeding into their trolling. Basically, I like to tell people, “bless your heart” or “I’m going to pray for you.” Everyone knows I’m being sarcastic, and I also don’t inflame the troll. I don’t even give them the satisfaction of seeing me mad. I’ve found it effective.

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