By Teryl Warren

Image Courtesy of OWN

As host of the OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s docu-series “Our America,” veteran journalist Lisa Ling explores the good, the bad and the provocative sides of life in communities throughout the United States and encourages us to, well, own it.

“No pun intended,” she laughed, at the obvious tie we made between “own” and OWN.

When we caught up with Lisa, episodes from the season 2 of her popular show were just beginning to air. From young women embarking on new lives as preparing to becoming nuns, to the plight of teen moms grappling with the numerous challenges of parenthood, the current season of “Our America with Lisa Ling” takes viewers on a journey into little known and rarely-discussed about subcultures of everyday life in this country.

“The goal of the show is to get people to take ownership of what it means to be American. We want people to recognize that this is about us.”

Throughout a career that has spanned 20 years, Lisa Ling has made it her business to spark debate and raise awareness about compelling, thought-provoking and, sometimes, painful issues.  As a field correspondent for The Oprah Winfrey Show and contributor to ABC News’ Nightline and National Geographic’s Explorer, Lisa Ling has reported from dozens of countries; covering stories about gang rape in the Congo, bride burning in India and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, among other issues that are too often ignored.

Lisa got her start in journalism as a correspondent for Channel One News where she covered the civil war in Afghanistan at 21 years of age.  She later went to become a co-host of ABC Daytime’s hit show The View, which won its first daytime Emmy during her time at the show.

Image Courtesy of OWN

Lisa’s popular docu- series, “Our America with Lisa Ling” premiered on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, in February 2011.  Despite the many achievements and accolades she’s amassed in her storied journalism career, Lisa cites her current gig as an unquestionable highlight.

“Being a part of this show has been the greatest honor of my career,” she said. “I believe people’s horizons are being expanded more than they may have been prior to watching the show. Meaningful, impactful programming like this makes people better because they become more aware of their fellow Americans.”

Equipped with genuine warmth, an engaging personality and an inquisitive spark in her eye, Lisa Ling is part confessor, part counselor, part cheerleader and pure journalist. She creates a safe place for every day Americans to discuss their lifestyle choices and the consequences of those choices.

“People share things so openly with us because they know our show won’t exploit them.”

An essential factor in the success of her show is Lisa’s ability to build trust with total strangers. She has managed to do that throughout her career by maintain the highest level of professionalism and integrity – regardless of the subject matter.

Lisa was a special correspondent for CNN’s Planet in Peril series and is a contributing editor for USA Today’s USA Weekend magazine.    She is the co-author of “Mother, Sister. Daughter, Bride: Rituals of Womanhood,” and “Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and The Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home” that she penned with her sister Laura.

Image Courtesy of OWN

And while her book “Somewhere Inside” may have been born out of personal experience, Lisa is quick to note just how much the reverse is true. She credits her work for aiding her in her personal journey to deeper self-discovery and fulfillment.

“My work on this show constantly challenges my objectivity and preconceived notions. I always go in to a story thinking one thing and I learn that the truth is so complex.”

One truth Lisa admits that she was forced to confront through her work was her own life-long questions and doubts about religion. Raised in a devoutly Catholic home, Lisa often found herself struggling with the rigid legalism and judgment that many pious believers demonstrate.

“I hate dogma,” she stated. “It pits us against each other as a race.”

Yet, in her work on the “Brides of Christ” episode of “Our America” – which follows women who’ve chosen to pursue religious vocation – Lisa found answers to questions that had plagued her throughout her life.

Image Courtesy of OWN

“It was in Sister Margaret – a nun who works to help homeless transvestite prostitutes in Los Angeles – that I saw God for the first time in my life,” she shared. “She’s one of the first people I ever saw who acted like Christ, because she embraces the people that society turns its back on.”

And while some series episodes showcase distinctly American subject matter like “Sparkle Babies” – which takes viewers beneath the glitzy surface of child beauty pageants – each show offers a poignant portrayal of decidedly universal themes.

Audiences can expect many more fascinating episodes of “Our America” as the series continues to gain popularity.  As Lisa told us, there is no shortage of interesting human stories.  And there is, seemingly, no limit to Lisa’s ability to keep up enthralled.  In a world filled with tabloid journalism and contrived drama, Lisa Ling reminds us of the power of truth and acceptance.  Without judgment, Lisa deftly questions the lifestyle choices we as people make, and, simultaneously respects our right to make them.

“We all want something. We want to be happy, to live the best lives we can. And, most of all, we want to be accepted and understood.”


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