We sat down with journalist Lisa Ling and chatted with her about a range of topics -- from the very serious to the lighthearted (one word: infomercials) -- and came away with some surprising insights about the "Our America with Lisa Ling" host. Find out how travel has shaped her life, watch as she reveals her guilty pleasures and hear what she believes to be the biggest danger facing our country today.
When this season’s all-new episodes of "Our America" air, the popular OWN series will have logged a grand total of 39 original hours of television in two years. That amounts to 39 vastly different -- and often shocking -- completely immersive stories of Americans.
“What I love about [the episodes],” reveals Ling, “is they are so beautifully shot, and in many ways, slow and introspective, which is in contrast to just about every show on television. Our show is almost the antithesis of what mainstream television is airing… and I think people really seem to be responding to it.”
Aside from the viewer-discretion-advised season premiere about people living a real-life "50 Shades of Grey," there is one topic that Ling has wanted to cover for years. And once she got the green light, she took the cameras into her own, very personal, struggle with the subject matter.
“This year, OWN allowed me to do the show [“The Secret Lives of Seniors”] because we wanted to do it through the prism of the challenges that my sister and I are facing with our own dad, who is starting to lose his memory and become increasingly more forgetful,” says Ling.
“Every one of us will have to become old one day… so, to me, there isn’t a topic that’s more relevant -- or more appropriate -- for us to be aware of.”
While filming the series, Ling has delved deeply into the many serious problems that plague America. The biggest, most current danger she sees? “Honestly, I think that ignorance is probably the most dangerous thing in this country, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m so proud of what we are doing with 'Our America.' By introducing the viewers to a subset of the population that they would otherwise probably never experience, Ling hopes people realize that “just because people are different from you doesn’t mean that they are [any] less human, and no less of an American.”
Expanding her own horizons is an ongoing mission for Ling. “Travel has completely changed my life," she says. "It’s made me the person I am because it’s exposed me to things that I would have never been able to experience had I not had the opportunity to travel. It’s the one thing I would encourage everyone to do, particularly young people. If you get a chance to go beyond your comfort zone, it will change your life forever.”
“I’ve become more defiant than ever that the need for strong journalism has never been more important," says Ling. "[Laura] went through a situation in which her story was prevented from being realized and being told.... There’s so much partisanship in this country that we need strong voices, we need people to take risks out there… and so, I’ve actually become more intrepid and passionate about the need for storytelling around the world since my sister was held captive.”
When asked what viewers would be surprised to learn about the intrepid host and mother-to-be, Ling sheepishly grins and reveals, “I’m addicted to online shopping.” She proceeds to explain getting caught up in the herd mentality of this particular vice, and adds (with a giggle) that, “I’ve been known to order a thing or two off of infomercials.”
The new season of "Our America with Lisa Ling" premieres on OWN Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 10 p.m. ET.