In the television world of countless Dr. Oz’s and Dr. Phil’s, there remains only one Iyanla Vanzant.
The therapist and 17-time author, who’s famously known for transforming her clients’ haunting life experiences into healing victories, makes it very clear that she’s no cliché celebrity doctor.
“I’m not a celebrity television star, I’m a minister. To get there, I had to write 17 books, attend law school to learn how to think analytically, I had to create workshops, build an institution where I train people and conduct seminars,” Iyanla told NBCBLK.
Iyanla’s relationship with the Oprah Winfrey brand and OWN first began when she regularly appeared on the media mogul’s talk show as a life coach starting in 1999. Now she’s making executive decisions as one of OWN’s Creative Director along with leading two shows for their original programming format: “Oprah’s Lifeclass” and “Iyanla, Fix My Life.”
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As expected, on the latest season of “Fix My Life: House of Healing,” she’s running a tight ship. Instead of narrowing the vocal point on a celebrity overcoming a scandal on each episode, she fearlessly decided to debunk a vicious stereotype that has taken a life of its own: The Angry Black Women.
Iyanla invited a group of eight women that inhibit temperamental behavioral issues with carrying the burden of anger and emotional distress. Many of these women are also coping with the effects of infidelity, physical abuse, absentee fathers, financial and careers deficits.
Among the group were Chrystale Wilson, known to some viewers as the stripper Ronnie from Ice Cube’s 1998 film, "The Player’s Club," and Lira Galore, the former fiancée of rap mogul Rick Ross.
When counseling the troubled ladies, Iyanla explained that when they act out it sets them out on a path that reinforces the dangerous stereotype of Angry Black Women, or "ABW". Until they understand why the behavior is showing up, then the label will be present for generations to come.
So what’s her secret to curing this plague that’s preventing these ladies from discovering their fullest potential?
“We must use communication tools and various exercises to confront past issues head on. They have to learn to forgive themselves and examine the emotions that they are feeling. Tracking their progress is also fundamental,” the soul surgeon says.
The 63-year-old life-fixer also believes that more viewers tuned into this season’s theme than previous “Fix My Life” seasons because it was more relatable.
“It’s even more fulfilling for the viewers because it gives them a broader spectrum,” she says. “I got eight women, each with a different experience and expression that is of anger. I’ve always said that I wanted 'Fix My Life' to be participatory….you weren’t going to just sit and watch. You have to find your issues, find your story and put yourself in it and now with eight women together it gives more viewers a foundation. It’s becoming easier for them to see themselves.”
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She further stated, “For the season premiere we promoted viewing parties and I created a worksheet for viewers to download to govern the conversation and get in touch with how they feel. Whether you’re watching or 'Two and a Half Men,' 'Friends,' 'Modern Family,' people always make it about the characters, which is external. The worksheet helps to make the process internal and I’m going to continue to do this for future shows.”
Iyanla revealed that the Angry Black Woman myth has upset her during the course of her career. But it wasn’t until she heard the misleading criticism of First Lady Michelle Obama that motivated her to approach this pessimistic label.
“It’s been quite a long time since we’ve had a woman in this position of power in this country who demonstrates the presence and being of black woman,” she says. “What was being portrayed about us was being made up and then the people that made it up want us to bend to fit their description. She’s not an entertainer, she’s a mom, and she’s educated, strong, powerful, and consistent. We’ve had black woman leaders, but we’ve never had one stand in the demonstration in the way Michelle Obama does and I think it frightened people and they had to find ways to diminish her, to demean her.”