Maria Leonard Olsen is a biracial attorney whose parents were forbidden by law to marry in their home state of Maryland in the 1960s. She practices law as a commercial litigator in the Washington, D.C. area, covering a variety of matters, including contract disputes, employment discrimination and government relations. Maria is an author, podcaster, journalist, TEDx speaker and mentor to women in recovery. Her latest book, 50 After 50: Reframing the Next Chapter of Your Life has helped thousands of women thrive in midlife.
She has written books on self-care and the new American family. Her children’s books, Mommy Why’s Your Skin So Brown? and Healing for Hallie, have been widely used as teaching vehicles on diversity and the importance of processing feelings. On her podcast, “Becoming Your Best Version,” Maria amplifies the voices of inspiring women each week. Maria graduated from Boston College and the University of Virginia School of Law, served as a political appointee for legislative affairs and policy development in the Clinton Justice Department, fostered newborn babies awaiting adoption, and has been on the boards of Children’s National Medical Center BOV, the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Washington and other nonprofits.
While in private practice in one of D.C’s then-largest law firms, Maria was awarded Pro Bono Coordinator of the Year by the D.C. Bar Association and, in 2023, was named Distinguished Alumna of the Year by the Academy of the Holy Cross. She has written for The Washington Post, AARP, Parents Magazine, Authority Magazine and others, and joined Meer as a contributing writer in 2023. Her next book, to be published by Brandeis University Press, will cover the unintended consequences of consumer DNA testing. Maria has spoken at numerous schools and corporate and nonprofit events, including the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, the Mixed Remixed Festival, HerStory Circle and the National March to End Rape Culture. One of her book talks was featured on C-Span’s Book TV show. She spoke at TEDx CUNY on “Turning Life’s Challenges into a Force for Good.” She has traveled to 59 countries, and strives to see the world. She spent much of 2022 in Latin America. Her daughter works for City Bureau, a media nonprofit in Chicago, that increases accessibility and coverage for underserved communities, and her son is a social media influencer and media personality in Los Angeles @Chris on TikTok and @ChrisOlsen on Instagram.