Capri Cafaro is a TV host, Cook, Author and a female equality rights activist. Keep up to date with her on instagram @capriscafaro.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background, and your current role
I am a TV Host, cookbook author, culinary podcast host, and TV commentator. Previously, I was a state senator in my native Ohio for a decade prior to my term ending due to mandated limits. During my tenure as a lawmaker, I also served as Minority Leader for almost 4 years. I graduated with a degree in American Studies from Stanford University at aged 19 and also esrned two master’s degrees, one with a concentration in International Studies from Georgetown University as well as a Master’s in Social Work from Ohio State University that I compleyed while serving as an elected official. When I am not on TV or in the kitchen, I am the classroom as a professor at American University as well as a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics.
Over the last 5 years, I have had the unexpected experience of being a regular guest host and commentator on Fox News, the #1 rated cable news network In the United States. I was also a regular co-host on Outnumbered and appeared several times as a co-host on The Five, the top-rated show in key demos, with viewership anywhere from 1 to 2.8 million per show. I even guest anchored Bulls and Bears on the Fox Business Network, and been invited onto international including networks, including in the UK ITV’s Good Morning Britain, BBC News & Sky News, CBC Canada and Newsnight Afrika in South Africa.
I am not all work though. I had the privilidge of being a a brand ambassador for UK based international retailer Karen Millen’s Women Who Can campaign and shared my love of music as a guest DJ on SiriusXM’s Classic Vinyl and Ozzy’s Boneyard.
My lifelong passion for food and storytelling has led to a shift away from news and towards cooking programming and lifestyle talk shows. I am the host and creator of America the Bountiful, an original food & travel series exploring the regional food traditions of America’s heartland, showing that America’s Heartland is not just flyover country but is a rich cornucopia of cultures inspiring surprisingly diverse flavors on plates across the nation. The show was inspired in part by my undergraduate degree in American Studies as well my time as an elected official when I served on the Senate Agriculture Committee and co-authored Ohio’s tourism promotion law.
In 2020, I released my debut cookbook, United We Eat. It features 50 recipes that tell America’s unique story, demonstrating how food can unite and bring people together. As part of my virtual book tour, I appeared on a variety of television cooking segments on stations across North America from Portland, OR to Tampa, FL as well as on Canada’s #1 morning show, Breakfast Television and Canada’s #1 daytime talk show, The Social. I can tell you that cooking on TV is way harder than it looks as it takes quite a bit of prep, but it is a blast!
I am also the host of Eat Your Heartland Out, a culinary podcast from the Heritage Radio Network which focuses on the intersection of food and culture in the American Midwest. The show is entering in to season 3 and is also now available through the Public Radio Exchange, an entity that provides content to public radio affiliates across the United States.
In addition to television and radio, I am a host with EatWith International where I lead cooking classes both in person and online. Her work and expertise have been featured in publications such as Variety, the Huffington Post, the Food Network and Taste of Home online.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I guess I never really thought about it that way as I decided I wanted to go into public service when I was about 10 years old. I was inspired by my grandfather who was a WWII veteran and had a desire to help people through government advocacy. Growing up in an industrial town passed over by prosperity, I recognized early on that there was a correlation between policy fairness and the ability for communities to thrive. So, I thought running for office was the best way to help people. Subsequently, I started volunteering on campaigns, participating in civic-minded extracurricular activities, and focused all my efforts on my education. I became the first woman in my family to graduate from university. After graduation, I attended graduate school and went on to work in several non-profit organizations and a United Nations NGO all serving the needs of older adults. My focus on elder policy was driven by my personal experience as a carer to my grandfather (see above WWII vet) who suffered from Alzheimer’s for almost 8 years. When you plan to run for office, there are a few steps you need to take into consideration, not only your professional and academic background, but also building relationships with key stakeholders which is something that does have to be planned out to an extent. Now, after 12 years in politics and10 years as an elected official, I remain committed to helping others, but find that politics and government is sadly not what it used to be. Mandated term limits, along with the pervasive polarization that exists now in politics, I have found myself shifting my focus and trying to apply my skills in new ways.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
I was the youngest person in the room for a long time. And as a young woman entering politics, I was regularly dismissed as well as judged and ridiculed about my appearance, my age, and my lack of elected experience at the time. No one wanted me to run or encouraged me to run, except for my sister who has always been my biggest source of support and an accomplished inspiration in her own right. While I lost my first general election, I never gave up, and I’m glad I didn’t. I think I credit my perseverance to a tumultuous upbringing and being the target of abusive, narcissistic behavior, which I really have never spoke about publicly in detail. I have just done everything I can to help others who may be or have been in my situation.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
Authoring and passing the rape kit backlog law in Ohio. This law has provided a tool for rape survivors to seek justice through processing and logging evidence that has led to countless arrests and convictions of rapists that who would otherwise still be walking free.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Persistence and dogged work ethic. Creativity in finding ways to get to yes when everyone says no.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I never had a mentor, and I wish I had. So, I am very committed to mentoring young women especially those interested in public service in some form. I mentored many of the young women who worked with me in my Senate office and continue to support young women and girls though mentoring organizations. I will always answer a call for assistance, feedback, and support.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?
I think media stereotypes of women often magnify both implicit and explicit misogyny. Media reflections of women also contribute to self-talk that undermines our own self-esteem. If women were presented and covered differently in the press, it could very much help stop this cycle and enable a clearer path to gender equality. This cannot happen without male allies. And we cannot forget that not all women have the same experience. Women of colour, lesbian and Trans women face challenges that cis hetero white women face.
Politics is well known to be male-dominated – how do we encourage more women and girls to come forward and have a voice?
I noticed after Donald Trump was elected, women, especially young women, were motivated to seek elected office because there was a fear that the administration’s policies could set women back decades. However, it should not take a potential policy crisis to motivate women to run for office. Mentoring, affordable childcare access and normalizing especially young women (with or without families) in office help provide women with the confidence that it is possible for them to fill these roles. 17 years ago, when I ran, there were hardly any young women running for office, especially for higher office. The assumptions that as a woman of child baring age you either will not be able to do your job or quit was pervasive when I ran in 2004. That is less the case now as more and more young women are running for office, and many are world leaders such as in Finland and New Zealand. Representation matters.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Don’t sweat the small stuff. And enjoy being in the present.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
As I alluded to above, I have decided to shift professional gears after spending the better part of 20 years in government/politics. Over the last five years, I have spent quite a bit of my time doing television commentary. As politics has become polarizing and government is sadly become ineffective in many ways, I am trying to combine my media experience and my passion to bring awareness to people and stories that have otherwise been neglected. As such, I recently released my first cookbook, United We Eat, which tells America’s story through 50 recipes that highlight how food can bring people together. I also launched a podcast, Eat Your Heartland Out which is a show all about the intersection of food and culture in the American Midwest. The cookbook and show were both inspired by the incredible and diverse group of people I met while I was an elected official. I hope through storytelling, I can help raise awareness for vulnerable and marginalized populations while celebrating everyday people whose experiences are often unappreciated and ignored.
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