GS: What other kinds of mail do you get?
LL: This blows my mind. Last year I got a packet of letters from a middle school in Charlottesville, South Carolina and they started, no lie, a Lisa Ling fan club and they hd membership cards with my picture on it. I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't flattering, but at the same time, one of the important things on our show is that we want the students to think that we're just like them, that we're just normal people.
Lisa Ling with a Channel One co-host.
GS: So you're a celebrity in some parts?
LL: Because Channel One is not seen in as many schools in California, I can lead my daily life here. But as soon as we step out of the state, we get recognized almost instantaneously, just because we're in so many schools across the country. Being recognized is great, but it's very weird. I'll never get used to that. It's not like we're celebrities. It's like, "We see you every day." That's what most people say. "Hey, Lisa Ling, we see you every single day." We get asked for autographs. I don't know why. If it brings someone satisfaction, I'll sign a piece of paper. Some people want to know what I'm studying in school. Some people want to know where I buy my clothes.
GS: What kind of clothes do you wear on the show?
LL: Conservative yet stylish. For example, I wouldn't wear this T-shirt tied up with my navel showing because we're seen in a lot of Catholic schools. Students are really impressionable. If that's what it takes for them to look up -- to see what I'm wearing -- then I don't mind. Hey, I'm a compulsive shopper. My favorite hobby in the world is shopping. If I wasn't paying my full tuition at USC -- which is one of the most expensive colleges in California -- I would probably spend a lot of it on clothes.
GS: You're very slim. Do you exercise a lot?
LL: I don't exercise at all. It's one of the things I wish I was more diligent in doing. But I hate it, and I'm always too tired to do it anyway. I couldn't do the Stairmaster for 15 minutes straight if you paid me. I would collapse. I eat a lot. It's not toned; it's just thinness. I don't look at myself and think I'm thin. It's sad, though, that so much influence is put on being so thin. I think it's really bad that we're constantly bombarded by images of thinness. Any woman who says she doesn't think abou it isn't telling the honest truth. I did a series on eating disorders, and it is a real problem.
GS: You mentioned that you're the only Asian American at Channel One. How does that affect your outlook?
LL: It's really important that we try to represent the Asian community. I pitch all the Asian stories, because of the fact that I am Chinese and because I receive a lot of mail from Asians. They always say what their ethnic background is, always, and I think they're really proud of me, and that feels good. They think it's nice to see an Asian reporter every day. I'm proud of being Asian, and that is something I would have never said years ago because I grew up in a virtually all-white community. In my high school of 2,000 there were probably about five Asians. As a kid I was embarrassed to be Asian because I didn't look like everyone else. People would tease me. I wasn't an outcast, but I didn't like being different. And they would constantly be making wisecracks, thinking, "Oh, she's not really like the stereotypical Asian. You're not like that." But it always hut. It bothered me. And I was really troubled by it. It wasn't until my senior year that I started reading about my heritage. Every book that I was reading on my own was by a Chinese author and I progressively started involving myself in the Asian community, after reacquainting myself with my Chinese ancestry. Even now, when I go to the bookstore, I veer to the Chinese history section. I don't think I can ever know enough about Chinese history.
GS:What are your plans in the near future?
LL: I'm going to spend my entire summer in Beijing because I want to learn Mandarin. It budget permits, the producer will meet me in Asia and we will produce a series on the emergence of the Pacific Rim, and it will be followed by me going to the APEC conference. That's the one thing that I really want to do. I'm really excited. Being a California girl, it's a very interesting trip, to say the least.
"I wasn't an outcast, but I didn't like being different. And they would constantly be making wisecracks, thinking, "Oh, she's not really like the stereotypical Asian. You're not like that." But it always hurt. It bothered me."