Emmy-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien’s “PowHERful” conference for young women is rolling into St. Paul. The PowHERful Twin Cities Summit is Oct. 29 at St. Catherine University. The summit works with Starfish Foundation, a nonprofit providing financial assistance and mentoring to help young women completing college. O’Brien is CEO of Starfish Foundation, co-founded with her husband, Brad Raymond.
The 1,500 young women selected to attend this summit should be prompt and attentive, based on O’Brien’s serious-business-with-a-smile demeanor at the start of this July interview with Bevy Smith (bit.ly/2exRfZP). Smith was co-host of Bravo’s sadly departed, hysterically biting talk show “Fashion Queens.”
O’Brien, whose summit will feature an American Ninja Warrior with Minnesota ties, responded to my questions via e-mail.
Q: When and why did you start the PowHERful Summits?
A: It started four years ago, because we knew that many young women beyond our scholars needed help during that critical window from high school to finishing college.
Q: Who are some speakers at the Twin Cities summit?
A: So far, some of the people we have joining us for PowHERful Twin Cities are: Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Anne McKeig; Vikings Vice President Tanya Dreesen; SPS Commerce CFO Kim Nelson; St. Catherine University President Becky Roloff; Jeremiah Program CEO Gloria Perez; and founder, CEO & president of Pittsburgh, Pa.-based A Second Chance Inc., Dr. Sharon McDaniel. [Jennifer Tavernier, a personal trainer and American Ninja Warrior athlete, and Brittany Lynch, an artist, activist, DJ and entrepreneur, were added as keynote speakers after O’Brien answered my questions.]
Q: Who is a PowHERful Summit speaker you have not been able to book yet?
A: We are open to any woman or man who would be a fantastic role model and powerful speaker (no pun intended) for young women.
Q: What advice do you wish you had been given when you were the ages of these girls?
A: I wish someone had reinforced for me that difficult didn’t mean impossible. You sort of never figure it out. Even at 50, I don’t have it all solved and I think the process of life is just solving it. You sort of never really get there.
Q: Who were some of your mentors when you were a young girl?
A: Definitely my parents and older siblings. There was also a great journalist on TV in New York named Gloria Rojas, who I loved.
Q: Any broadcasting projects you have on the back burner?
A: A million! Working on a national tour of innovation in education, a multipart series on veterans. Also, taking a look at racial equality in America and lots of others.
Q: How often do you get to bring your daughters along for these summits, given that they are in school?
A: Always to the New York summit, which is in the summer! It has been a great way to spend time with my daughters for something that is so important.
Q: How do you know you’ve had a good PowHERful Summit?
A: The girls are enthusiastic, excited and energized. We are exhausted! Trust me, a 19-year-old woman will make it very clear when she is not being engaged.
Q: What are the kiss-off words you use on Twitter instead of just cursing out people trying to push your buttons?
A: I always say, “I’m going to pray for you.”
Q: Given all your broadcasting pursuits, speaking engagements, four kids and husband, when do you sleep and how much?
A: My Fitbit tells me I sleep about 6 hours and 20 minutes a night. I’m a sound sleeper; once my head hits the pillow I’m out.
Q: Have you ever toppled over because of your high heels?
A: Never! I’m faster in my high heels than most people are in their sneakers.
Q: You know that because of your fondness for high heels, feet problems are right around the corner?
A: We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it … probably in cute high-heeled suede boots!
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Jason Show.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.