Hostin, who is half Puerto Rican, was named Asunción at birth. However, when she was asked to appear on Court TV alongside legal commentator Nancy Grace to share her opinion on cases as a lawyer, Grace couldn’t pronounce her Spanish first name.
“She struggled, every take,” Hostin told Finding Your Roots host Henry Louis Gates, Jr. “It was just so crazy. She couldn’t get it.”
At one point, while working with Grace, Hostin said that her colleague asked her if there was another name that she could call her since she was having trouble saying Asunción. According to Hostin, during a commercial break, Grace asked, “‘Do you have … a nickname?’ She just kept at it. She was basically telling me, ‘You’re very good at this, but that name is not gonna fly.”
Hostin told Grace that “some friends in school who couldn’t pronounce my name call me Sunny” but that no one in her family called her by her nickname and she didn’t use it in a professional setting. “And the next segment, I was Sunny Hostin.”
Hostin said her “career took off” after she changed her name because “people remembered who I was.”
During the episode, Hostin also learned something about her family that she was shocked to discover. Gates told her that her Puerto Rican roots from her mother’s side could be traced back to Spain and that her Spanish ancestors were slaveholders.
“I just always thought of myself as Puerto Rican, half Puerto Rican,” she said. “I didn’t think my family was originally from Spain and slaveholders.”
Finding Your Roots airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on PBS.