When she's not traveling around the world as an investigative journalist, Lisa Ling can come home to a green house. "My husband and I are building the first carbon-neutral, LEED platinum certified home in Santa Monica. We buried a 5,000-gallon water tank, we have over 60 solar panels, we're not having any grass — all succulents," she says.
Ling, whose reports have aired on "National Geographic Explorer" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show," has her own program on the Oprah Winfrey Network premiering Feb. 16 called "Our America with Lisa Ling," in which she explores the lives of heroin addicts, sex offenders and faith healers, to name a few. "It's sort of the expanded version of what I was doing for Oprah's show, it's so much deeper," compares Ling, calling the show the most gratifying work experience and biggest honor of her life. "This has been the culmination of everything I've ever learned as a journalist. I think when you watch these shows, you will think differently about these issues. My hope is that people will watch and allow themselves to feel compassion for other human beings."
The circumstances of Ling's own background allow her to relate to her subjects. "I grew up as a Chinese American in Carmichael, California, in a very non-diverse community. And I always had tremendous conflicts with my cultural identity. I never felt totally American, nor did I feel entirely Chinese. And what this series is for me is this deep exploration into what it means to be an American. Sometimes the answer to that is really inspiring and moving, but sometimes it can be very, very dark and challenging," she says. "This is the good, the bad, and the ugly of being an American."