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I often strive to do 2 things: put people at ease and make them uncomfortable. I’ve accomplished that, both professionally and personally.

In school, I was the kid who fit in with all the different cliques yet belonged to none. Growing up in a Minnesota suburb as a refugee, I was aware from a young age that I was different from the rest of my friends. But instead of feeling self-conscious about it, I felt empowered by it. I was never afraid to stand alone.

I got into broadcasting at a time when being an Asian female was seen as a setback rather than an asset. Who knew decades later that people would start changing their names to sound more “ethnic” to gain an edge in this cut-throat industry?

My teachers tried to talk me out of tv news—but like a rebellious teen, that only made me want it more. Despite the highly competitive landscape, I excelled—but not by always “doing what was needed” to get ahead.

On the contrary, I often did what might have ended my career. Like saying no when a GM at NBC in Sacramento said I should change my last name to “Wynn,” or refusing to do stories because I thought they were exploitive… or refusing repeated sexual advances.

Did it hold me back in my career? Yes. Do I regret it? No. Because I stood for what I thought was right and again– I’m not afraid to stand alone. I worked nights and every weekend and holiday for 13 years straight before I was promoted to prime time…but I got there.

The Vietnamese have a saying about how real gold isn’t afraid of fire. My mom taught me that saying as a young teen. So armed with that wisdom, I walked through many fires and came out ok. The gold came too—5 Emmy Awards and many others for my work in journalism. I even won one after retirement. I’m especially proud of that one because I knew I was providing a public service by educating viewers about the 2020 election. THAT’S why I got into journalism—to help people. I always felt lucky to have the incredible career I did. But like many things, the industry changed—or I had. My thoughts on what “success” meant, changed.

After 26 years on the news desk, I needed “more.” More family dinners, more time with my kids, more focus on my charity, and more vacations—things that took a back seat to a career that brought me into your homes nightly. I don’t think viewers ever made the connection that while they watched me every night during dinner time, or after putting their kids to sleep, or right before they went to bed themselves…my own family was at home without me. It’s a sacrifice we all make in this business, but at some point, you realize none of the “stardom” is worth it anymore. That’s a time I’ll never get back.

When I retired from TV news, my son was about to start high school and my daughter was going into middle school. They needed me. And truth be told, I needed them. Making dinner every night was a privilege. Helping them with homework was a joy and kissing them goodnight was a blessing. I enjoyed things most people took for granted like taking the kids to froyo after school and being able to attend their sports games—I even coached my daughter’s volleyball team! My husband and I could go to dinner without having to schedule it, and I, for once, was breathing.

Because unlike most other jobs I couldn’t “turn it off” when I got home. I had to constantly watch or listen to the news—making sure I didn’t miss anything on an international, national, or local level. Meanwhile, it seemed like my kids had grown a foot each time I saw them. “Success” wasn’t sitting on my mantle. No, success was going to bed each night knowing I was present for my family that day. Some people are defined by their careers. For a long time, I couldn’t see myself (and neither could you) as anything other than “the news lady.” But I didn’t choose broadcasting to become famous, I chose it to be of service to others, and I did my duty. But my story doesn’t end there. Being a journalist earned me the trust and recognition that allows my charity work to flourish.

Through “Love Across the Ocean,” I helped more people than a “private citizen” Leyna ever could on her own. In retirement I’m surprisingly busier, hats that keep me active in media— including helping people as a trainer and consultant. I also work with my husband to help small business owners and entrepreneurs implement smart financial strategies, so they have more time to enjoy THEIR families. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Good or bad, every decision I’ve made led me to exactly where I am today. I’m happy, healthy, and able to help others. A life well-lived.

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