Iyanla Vanzant is a blessing. Since 2012, the author, Yoruba priestess, life coach, and relationship expert has been helping people, from star-studded folks to regular peeps next door, overcome the obstacles in their lives on her iconic and irreverent show Iyanla: Fix My Life.
We’ve been hooked on Vanzant’s direct, no-nonsense warm approach since the jump. For eight seasons, the top-rated OWN Network series had the relatability and authenticity that real people seek and many self-help programs lack. In remembrance of the series finale on May 22, let’s take a walk down memory lane to some of the most transformational moments of Iyanla’s life-fixing legacy.
All the Single Ladies
At some time or another, we all feel alone. During her first season, on her television special, Vanzant invited three hundred “chronically-lonely” single women from across the nation to a “hardcore relationship workshop.”
Starting the session with her trademark slogan, “the truth will set you free,” she had the participants write down what they thought got in their way in their relationships, and then segued into motivational coaching them on their dating anxieties and hang-ups while still maintaining her down-to-earth style and unique sense of humor.
We may not have been the lucky women handpicked to be coached, but this episode taught us a lot about ourselves and our relationships.
The Pace Sisters are known for their soul-stirring gospel singing, bringing their passionate renditions of the classics to audiences across the globe. Practicing what they preach, they always relied on their faith to get them through tough times.
But when they reached out to Vanzant, they had very earthly issues that faith alone couldn’t solve—health and weight concerns. Upon arrival, Vanzant instantly sensed underlying issues contributing to the Pace Sisters’ struggle. Her work earnestly called the sisters to “find their own voice.”
Combining modern medicine, intense therapy, and a wilderness retreat, Vanzant got to the bottom of what weighed the Pace Sisters down and helped them find true enlightenment.
In a place that 14 people call home, chaos was bound to ensue. But what happens when that place is also home to emotional and physical abuse, alcoholism, and even deeper darkness? Even Vanzant wasn’t sure if she could get to the bottom of it, but as usual, she did.
Behind the walls of anger and frustration, there was pain. Vanzant broke down those walls from all angles, giving the family (and the viewers who might have been going through similar situations) a new direction.
This episode wasn’t just eye-opening, it was a prime example of Vanzant’s mantra of empowerment in truth.
“Whatever is going on in ‘the Heartland of America’ is going on all over the country,” said Iyanla as she approached the home of troubled pill addict Tess Johnson. In 2011, following major surgery, after a back injury, Johnson went back to her job as head nurse at a hospital. Unfortunately, her back did not heal properly and she was suffering immense pain, which led to an addiction to pain medication. Spiraling out of control and not knowing how to ask for help, Nurse Tess stole over 300 pain pills from patients.
After being caught and convicted, Tess’s story rocked the local news headlines in her small town, creating drama, gossip, and a deep rift within her family. Digging through the depths of addiction and the pain it causes families can be complicated, but Iyanla brought the subject to a table in a way that brings healing to the forefront and gives anyone going through similar circumstances hope.
Addressing what Vanzant calls “a national epidemic” of grandmothers raising their children’s children, she headed to Chicago to face a troubled daughter and her tough-as-nails mother who’s helping raise her grandson.
As usual, things weren’t what they seemed, and both women carried baggage. At the core of the situation, though, was a young man with his future ahead of him. Vanzant got to the heart of the problem (and let’s face it, all of our hearts as well) when she made his life and healing the focal point of the episode.
The House of Healing
The myth of the “angry Black woman” is damaging to our minds, spirits, and society. Vanzant confronts this hurtful stereotype head-on. In this episode, Vanzant handpicked several Black women from all walks of life who had been identified as “angry” and invited them to a luxurious, healing retreat to hash out their issues.
Vanzant opened the session by declaring, “I am not my sister’s keeper; I am my sister. So when my sister hurts, I hurt.” We felt that.
Though these episodes came with a dash of drama and a high dose of realness, they also held a mirror up to the myths and truths that we all have had to face to walk in peace.
No Laughing Matter
If you’re into comedy, you know Luenell, the successful comedienne, actress, and all-around personality. Despite the light Luenell brings to so many lives, there’s a darker side to her life. Her struggles with self-confidence, past bitterness, and a turbulent relationship with her daughter brought her to Iyanla. Sometimes family relationships can be the most challenging relationships, and this episode brought this fact into the spotlight.
In this story, like a lot of ours, there were no easy answers, but Vanzant asked the questions that pave the way to them, and sometimes that’s what’s most important.
We’re still in our feelings about the end of our Vanzant’s show. But man, was it a good run! Vanzant and her powerful messages fixed so many lives. Here’s to lessons learned and lives renewed and healed, including our own.