Last night's F*it was filled with honest and inspiring stories from three incredible women - Reena Ninan, Ilana Kloss, and Laurie Fabiano - who opened up and shared their fears, struggles, and ultimate successes with us. They told us what it's really like to be a woman on network television, to report from Iraq, to travel the world as a professional tennis player, and to be an AIDS activist. Read their stories and wisest lessons below.
While being based in Jerusalem, Reena Ninan missed Mother's Day - twice. This wasn't because she didn't enjoy being a mom but because she saw an opportunity to pursue her on-air ambitions by going to Iraq to cover the war. Her toughest critics were the other women who thought she was not putting her family first.
Reena started in the newsroom as a producer before pursuing her on-air career, as a Middle East correspondent for Fox News for five years. Initially, her bosses at Fox News didn't think she was the “right fit” (she wasn't blonde) for being on camera, until she got a break when the channel needed someone to go to Iraq. After talking it over with her husband, she went for it. It wasn’t an easy decision.
While in Iraq, Mother's Day was the least of her worries. Her hotel got car bombed and an entire wall of her hotel room disappeared. She was shocked and scared, but soon fear turned into exhilaration. “I did what any woman would do in this situation: grab my eyeliner.” She put herself together in front of her dust covered mirror and went live on air from the scene of the bombing. It was her first ever broadcast.
Reena could’ve gone to pharmacy school and chosen a career path that “had great hours” —something more along the lines of what her parent’s had in mind. But Reena had other plans. She went on to report everywhere from Lebanon to Gaza, interviewing Hezbollah figures while pregnant, and reporting from Benghazi just four months after giving birth.
It’s not always easy being a reporter and a mom, but Reena isn't sorry. “Never apologize. Don't ever say sorry for working toward what makes you happy."
Bio: Reena Ninan is a correspondent for CBS News and an anchor for CBSN. She was previously a reporter for Fox News where she reported from Egypt, India, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya and Israel. She covered the trial of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and reported on the rise of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb from Morocco. Her work abroad also earned her notice from Glamour magazine, which included her in a "Women on the Front Lines" story.
Ilana Kloss is the perfect example of how individual people's mentorship and example changed her life, despite the odds against her. As a kid in South Africa growing up during apartheid, Billie Jean King noticed Ilana hitting balls on the tennis court, stepped in to play with her, and then offered to put her in touch with her personal coach and contacts. Before she knew tennis could be a career, Billie's generosity and openness set Ilana on a path to becoming a professional tennis player. "Ever since then I always play it forward," she said.
Ilana's life on the road as a professional tennis player became her education. "I didn't have a formal education and I learned by having to figure out how to get myself from point A to point B." She experienced discrimination for being South African. "Martina Navratilova was told she couldn't play with me," says Kloss.
Today Ilana Kloss is the CEO & Commissioner of World Team Tennis. She shared how running the organization is an everyday battle and being prepared for every meeting is key. "If there's a man in our meeting and we find out ahead of time that he has daughters, we know we're in," she says. She attributes part of her success to one key lesson, "When someone says no, it's because they don't have enough information," and, "generate revenue for the company you work for and you'll always have a job."
Bio: Ilana Kloss was the world's best doubles player in 1976, winning doubles titles at the US Open, Italian Open, US Clay Courts, German Open, British Hard Courts and Hilton Head. She's youngest player ever to be ranked No. 1 in her native South Africa. She's currently the Chief Executive Officer/Commissioner of World TeamTennis (WTT).
Laurie Fabiano never takes no for an answer. When she was in middle school, she wanted to take shop class but her school wouldn't let her. "So I sued them, " she said. She (and Title IX) are the reason girls in New Jersey were admitted to shop classes that were previously reserved for boys only.
After her sister in law became one of the first women to die of AIDS, Fabiano became an AIDS activist, and tried to reach the black community be reaching out to rappers to support AIDS Dance-a-thons. They all hung up on her. They thought coming near an AIDS dance would mean they would catch AIDS. People told her to give up, but she found a new angle. She decided to call female hip hop artists instead. Eventually Salt 'n Peppa and Queen Latifah took a risk and said yes, and she used those women as leverage to convince the others. Fabiano used her passion for the cause to break through fear and ultimately, her success saved lives. "I hate the phrase 'find your passion'," she says. "Many times your passion finds you.'"
Bio: Laurie Fabiano was the Deputy Mayor of Hoboken during the administration of Thomas Vezzetti. In 1988 she became an AIDS activist producing the AIDS Walks and AIDS Dance-a-thons around the country. In the past decade, as the Robin Hood Foundation’s Senior Vice President, she helped grow the Foundation into the largest private organization fighting poverty in New York City. She's currently the President of the Tory Burch Foundation.
Thank you to Tory Sport, the Tory Burch Foundation, CORE water, and entire Worn team who made this night possible. Learn more about Worn's work here.