Mom Talk: Q&A with News Anchor Yunji de Nies
The TV personality from Hawai‘i Island shares how she strives for balance on and off the screen.
After building a career on the mainland as a White House correspondent and reporter in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, Yunji de Nies knew it was time to move home. “I’m an only child, and it was just really important for me to be closer to my mom,” she says. Here in Honolulu, she has continued her passion for broadcast journalism while also bringing our community together on important topics and discussions.
You probably recognize Yunji from her five years anchoring the KITV evening news and her interviews with governors, mayors and CEOs on Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s “Spotlight Hawai‘i” which played a vital role in keeping us all in-the-know during the pandemic. Now with multiple gigs at PBS Hawai‘i and a new program on Hawai‘i News Now, we caught up with the busy mom of two to find out what’s new in the news and with her family.
Tell us about your new project “Spotlight Now” which debuted on September 12.
It is the next evolution of “Spotlight Hawai‘i” and is co-anchored again by myself and Ryan Kalei Tsuji. The program airs across all Hawai‘i News Now online platforms, and on K5 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. every Tuesday. It’s an opportunity to do deep dive interviews with newsmakers in our community, such as government and business leaders. What’s nice is that we’ll be able to take live questions from social media and get answers for viewers in real-time.
With all the tough topics you cover, do you have any tips for discussing current events and disasters with kids?
In full disclosure, my kids don’t watch the news. They are young, age 4 and 7, and I just don’t feel like that’s the right time for them to be watching. However, they are aware of what happened in Lāhainā, and my daughter has asked me a lot of questions. I just try to answer her as honestly as possible, while at the same time affirming that she is safe, that we are safe, and that we as a community are doing everything we can to help. But some questions are going to be just too tough to answer, so my stalling tactic is, “That’s a great question. Let me give it some thought,” or “Tell me why you want to know.” This helps me understand why she’s asking the question in the first place, and that can lead to a good conversation without having to address the original question.
How do you balance work and family?
I heard a recent quote from Michelle Obama, “you can have it all just not all at the same time,” and I really believe that. I’ve had periods of my life where I really focused on my career and that was all I cared about, but that season of life is not where I am right now. Currently my family takes priority, so that’s why I intentionally work part time. I’m very aware that I’m lucky to be able to have that opportunity.
What do you do for self-care?
I go to Plunge & Barrel in Kaka‘ako almost every weekday after I drop the kids off at school. They have a cold plunge pool that’s around 37 degrees and then a very, very hot sauna up to 220 degrees. It’s called contrast therapy, and it’s a mood booster. It releases a lot of endorphins, and I feel great after I do it.
Where does your family like to go on the weekends?
We go to the beach, of course. Waimānalo is our favorite at the moment, because my kids are into boogie boarding. We also love Foster Botanical Garden because, not only are the plants and setting beautiful, but you also don’t have to worry about cars thanks to the perimeter fence. Our other go-tos are Family Sunday at the Honolulu Museum of Art and a weekly trip to the public library.
You’re also a board member for Honolulu Theatre for Youth. What’s coming up this season?
Yeah, I’ve been on the board for HYT since my daughter was born. I love the organization. They bring live theater performances to over 100,000 kids throughout the state. This year’s plays are filled with amazing stories of Hawai‘i and the people who live here. There is a story based in Hawaiian culture, one about Micronesia, another with Japanese folktales, and one about the Chinese zodiac. It’s awesome for kids to be able to see themselves reflected on the stage.
Can you share some of your favorite local businesses?
For the kids, I love anything that Keiki Kaukau puts out. For my husband, I like Sig Zane Designs—the shirts are so beautiful, and every print tells a story. For myself, I like Mohala Eyewear sunglasses, Fighting Eel and Dolkii.