The inspirational speaker discusses her new role as host of the TV show, Iyanla, Fix My Life.
TV show host Iyanla Vanzant
Tavis: Always pleased to welcome Iyanla Vanzant to this program. The inspirational speaker and best-selling author just kicked off a compelling new series for the Oprah Winfrey Network called “Iyanla, Fix My Life.” The show airs Saturday nights at 10:00 on OWN. Here now some scenes from “Iyanla, Fix My Life.”
Tavis: I suspect the most difficult thing for any of us to confront is the one thing we have to deal with if we’re going to fix anything about our lives, and that is the truth. Why is that so difficult for me, you, any of us to deal with?
Iyanla Vanzant: Yeah. Because I think as human beings we have a built-in mechanism that doesn’t want to be vulnerable, that doesn’t want to look weak and that doesn’t want to be wrong, and if I tell the truth about what I did it may make me look weak. It makes me vulnerable to criticism and judgment, and it means I did it wrong. The ego doesn’t want to be wrong, ever.
Tavis: Yeah. This first episode – and by the way, congratulations on the first episode.
Vanzant: Thank you.
Tavis: A little birdie told me that the numbers were huge.
Vanzant: Yeah, huge.
Tavis: And I’ll leave it at that – huge. (Laughter) I know Ms. Winfrey was glad to hear that.
Tavis: Huge on your first night. I suspect some of that probably had to do with the fact that your guest on the first night was Evelyn Lozada, who we all know from the whole -
Vanzant: “Basketball Wives.”
Tavis: Chris – yeah, yeah, “Basketball Wives” and the whole Chad Ochocinco -
Tavis: – Chad Johnson drama. So that always helps, of course, in terms of ratings. But from what I just saw, though, your typical guest, though, is not, they’re not celebrities, they’re not – yeah, yeah.
Vanzant: No, not a celebrity at all. And the other thing, as a celebrity I had a very personal fall, publicly. The other thing that I want to communicate is celebrities are people. Somehow there’s this notion in the world that if I get this or I get that, if I’m a celebrity, if I have a hit song, a hit record, a hit TV show, it makes me immune to being human. It makes me immune to human issues, and it does not.
So in addition to just wanting to demonstrate that celebrities are human beings with issues, I also wanted to demonstrate that the same thing it takes for Joe in the projects or on the street corner to heal, it takes for the celebrity. They’re not any different. They’ve got to go to through the same process.
Tavis: What’s the commonality?
Vanzant: Humanness. Humanness and the ego’s drive to resist being vulnerable. This woman had to make herself vulnerable because as public as she was from Basketball Wives,” it’s as public as her fall was and it’s as public as her healing was. What a gift.
Tavis: What motivates people, inspires people, convinces people to go through all of this on television?
Vanzant: I don’t think they do it willingly. I think the universe calls them into it, really. Because had she known it was going to look like that, I don’t think she would have volunteered. In this particular instance people will go out and act crazy on television, but to do this level of work speaks to courage, speaks to willingness to be vulnerable, speaks to being of service to the world, and that was her desire.
All of my guests come to me. We don’t look for anybody. She wrote us, so that’s why she was a guest.
Tavis: We live in a world now where even people volunteer, oftentimes there’s an ulterior motive so that what they really want to do is to get on television, and that leads to what they hope will be a book, what they hope will be a reality show for themselves.
Vanzant: Show, right, right.
Tavis: So how do you weed through the riff-raff to get to what’s real?
Vanzant: I pray. I pray. If it doesn’t land right in my belly, I don’t care who they are. Because there’ve been so that we’ve, I’ve said no to. I pray because I’m real clear that what I’m doing and how I’m doing it is my service, is my ministry, and so I want to be in perfect alignment with my creator. I don’t care who you are. If I don’t get the okay on the inside, you will not be showing up on the outside. (Laughter)
Tavis: How did this show come to be? I ask that because you referenced it a moment ago, and even if you hadn’t, the whole world knows, because they saw you when the book came out, they saw you for those two days on the “Oprah Winfrey” show, the old “Oprah Winfrey” show. Out of that came a healing and obviously a TV show came out of it. But how did this project actually happen?
Vanzant: Well, don’t cut yourself out, because had you not taken me to dinner, fed me that chicken and made me write that book, there would have been nothing for Ms. Winfrey to call me about, so I thank you for that. After our two shows in her farewell season, she did life class and wanted to do a weekly roundup of life class, so she invited me in.
The first one was online only and it was so hugely received that she then took a weekly roundup of life class to the network and we did it together. So we did six of them, then we did the tour, and one day she just said to me, “You know, you need your own show,” and I said, “No thank you, I’m happy right here.”
She said, “No, you need your own show.” We didn’t know what it was going to be, we really didn’t, because this wasn’t what it started out to be, and organically it just unfolded. I think for such a time as this, Tavis. People are hurting. People are suffering. I can’t get everywhere, you can’t give enough news.
There’s no more “Oprah Winfrey” show. So this, for me, is my vision – to reach the largest number of people with the least amount of effort, to teach, to give spiritual tools and principles. Because as people, we have forgotten to be people. We know how to be doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, we know what to do, we know what to buy, but how do I just sit with you in your pain?
How do I sit with you in your vulnerability and not betray you, not abuse you? We don’t know how to do that, even in our homes. So that’s my vision for this show, that we’ll teach people how to be people, how to live by spiritual principle and how to outrun the ego. (Laughs)
Tavis: How is Iyanla – and I don’t mean the TV personality or the best-selling author – how is Iyanla the person handling this this time around? I ask that again because in your book “Peace from Broken Pieces” you talk about the first time you had a show, and I made the joke many times, and it really ain’t a joke; it’s real. White folk can fail their way up to the top.
Vanzant: That’s right.
Tavis: So often, Black folk, you get a shot, you don’t make it work the first time, they will not call you back again.
Vanzant: Yeah, that’s right.
Tavis: So you had a daytime show produced by Barbara Walters’ company. It worked for a while, but not so long. Now you get a second shot at this. How are you approaching this differently from the first time you had your own show?
Vanzant: Well, number one, I have a – this is my ministry. I’m real clear about that. Number two, I have a real clear vision, and my vision is aligned with OWN’s vision. OWN’s vision is to produce programming and give information to people to help them live a better life.
My vision is to elevate the consciousness of humanity one mind, one heart, one life, one spirit at a time. They are married. Before, I was not aligned with people how were aligned with my vision.
The other thing, Tavis, is you know this – we’re older now. I don’t want to say older; I say I’m getting better now. (Laughs)
Tavis: My grandmother says “chronologically gifted.”
Vanzant: Yes, I am chronologically gifted, and I am not seeking anything but service to my creator. I don’t need a house, I don’t need a car, I don’t need any of that, but to be present with each guest that sits across from me, and I’m committed to a bigger thing than me, which is the vision of OWN, because OWN is going to outlive all of us.
So as long as I stay committed to that vision, share the gifts God gave me, hey, I can’t fail. Failing, as Eminem said, is not an option.
Tavis: How does it feel, though, to be a part of helping Oprah – hi, Oprah – how does it feel to be a part of helping her succeed? When you mentioned a moment ago that OWN is going to outlive all of us, it may, it may not.
Vanzant: It will.
Tavis: She’s been very – I’m glad you said that, because she’s been very public about the role that she’s taken on.
Tavis: The more aggressive role in making sure that her network succeeds. I’ve said many times I would never bet against Oprah Winfrey, but everybody knows that she has really put her energy into this to make this thing succeed. So you have come in around the time of her putting her own stamp on this, so how does it feel to be a part of that process to help her make this thing work?
Vanzant: Well, both of us agreed. Both of us re-cognized, or recognized, that this is bigger than us. This is bigger than her, this is bigger than me. This is the salary that our grandmothers did not get paid for. They did hard work in this world with their lives and didn’t get paid. We’re going to get the rewards by having a woman of color build a network that changes the face of television.
This I know for sure, because the other networks that I was affiliated with, they said this couldn’t be done. Healing on television could not be done. They said no one would watch. Well, the numbers have proved them differently and it was done, I want to say by a Black woman, but let me say by a woman of color who’s got a grandmother watching over her.
A grandmother that washed somebody’s clothes and scrubbed their floors. I have a grandmother watching over me. This cannot fail. It will not. OWN will be change. OWN will change the face of television. This I know for sure.
Tavis: And there you have it. (Laughter) So, all right. So if you turn on OWN Saturday nights at 10:00, you will see Iyanla Vanzant hosting her new show “Iyanla, Fix My Life.” The numbers were huge the first time out, and I suspect they’re going to remain way up there for as long as this project is on. So, good to see you.
Vanzant: Thank you, my love.
Tavis: Glad to have you here.
Vanzant: Thank you.
Tavis: That’s our show for tonight. Until next time, keep the faith.
“Announcer:” For more information on today’s show, visit Tavis Smiley at PBS.org.
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