Should We Be Taking Advice From Iyanla Vanzant?

March 1, 2012  |  

According to Rhonda Britten, Vanzant co-star therapist on Starting Over, she and Vanzant too had issues on the set of their reality TV show and said that she was regularly on the receiving end of a bunch of rolling eyes, sharp comments and looks of disgust. Said Britten: “If she could one up me, she did. If she could get more TV time by walking over my coaching moments, she did. If she could mutter under her breath some put down that no one else could hear but me and the audio people, she did. This is what happens when we do not take responsibility for our pain. We unleash it on those around us. I believe she was doing the best she could. And her best hurt many people, including me. And, this is the sad part, she never cleaned up after her attacks. Sorry was not part of her vocabulary even when she was called out by the higher ups in production. Even when she was confronted with her behavior.”

But that’s old news. And obviously they, with exception of Britten, have made up, gotten over it and moved on in a big way. However, it makes you wonder how a woman of her esteem and consciousness could bring so much drama professionally? Moreover, I’m wondering if I could watch a show of Vanzant playing the archetypal all-knowing Earth Mother fixing other people’s lives when clearly she hasn’t done working on her own?

And maybe it is not an indictment of Vanzant as is it is on the whole self-help and life coaching industry in general. So many of us, particularly women, soak up a lot of this feel good, self-empowerment gobbledygook from folks, who aren’t too good at following their own advice. As a teen, I used to read her books a lot. I would do the daily affirmations from “Acts of Faith,” practice the exercises regularly in Don’t Give It Away: A Workbook of Self-Awareness and Self-Affirmations for Young Women and celebrated along with Vanzant through “Yesterday, I Cried: Celebrating the Lessons of Living and Loving.” There is no denying that Vanzant writes from a familiar and personal place that touches the crevices of the soul.

However I got over Vanzant and the whole self-help genre in general. I’ve seen to many self-appointed gurus walk in blaring contradictions to be comfortable listening to them. Plus, I think enough time has passed for me to get a decent perspective on life to know that no one can claim to be an “expert” in the sheer randomness of life nor could those who do call themselves experts, reduce life down to a set of tasks, motivational quotes and affirmations. And that’s not to say that Vanzant has to be perfect or isn’t entitled to mistakes but she should be consistent. But how valuable is advice if it is based around the cliché  “do as I say and not as I do?”


Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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  • Crystal Durham

    So glad to hear someone else put into words what I’ve thought about this woman ever since that reconciliation show on Oprah. I have to say, my faith in Oprah went down a few notches as I watched her buy into Ilyana’s lame explanation. When I saw that Ilyana had scored a show on OWN, I realized my time for learning from Oprah has passed. I just don’t understand it.

  • escobme

    Iyanla, Fix Your OWN Damn Life!!! Not Qualified! Boop!

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  • boo

    A lot of what was stated in this “article” is not true. I’ve also watched the Oprah reconciliation show. Iyanla did in fact own up to her part, so you need to watch it more objectively and not look for log-lines to use out of context to fit your agenda. I’ve also read several of her books in which she definitely takes responsibility for her actions through revealing her personal tragedies and how she learned from them by releasing the ego, admitting her role, and doing the work to move forward. Sounds like you may need to do a bit of this work before you go around bashing a woman who has helped millions. What is your intention here anyway? Are you trying to do some kind of “expose” or are you just projecting your own instability and lack of self-responsibility onto a person that you want to emulate?

  • HBOP

    Looking forward to the show… All Teachers of All disciplines are first teaching themselves and then others..We can learn from ALL regardless of light or dark… We need to get out of this “Savior Complex”, looking for someone or thing outside of ourselves to save us and realize, we have all we need inside. “GOD WITHIN”  and in every person and thing.  Then we can open to grow more, love more, forgive more with less judgment and pointing the finger… WE ARE ALL DIVINE AND HAVE A PURPOSE and are on our own journey that incorporates all we attract into our lives for our own growth and development.  The greatest focus should be on self and service, instead of everybody else’s business. Love, Peace & Harmoy

    • Tddowery

      Hi guys. I don’t really feel that there is anything to criticize here. The woman is spreading positivity in the world, and Lord knows there aren’t enough people doing that in this world. Take a look at the angst of the mother shouting at her child on the train, or a look at a murder story in the paper, or turn on the TV and see how people bicker with each other on talk shows, or how people smoke like chimneys absolutely any and everywhere they get a chance…this is not a world full of good vibes. It’s a world full of anxiety, depression, anger, disillusionment, hopelessness, apathy, angst…feel free to fill in the rest of the negative adjectives. If more people could have her way of viewing the world, it could be a far better, healthier and more productive place. I mean, even people who critisize things like the Bible…how can there be any harm in positive teaching intended to bring an inncocent joy and virtuous way of life into the world. Once again, it’s people’s negative perceptions and interpretations that taint the meanings that the Bible tries to communicate. It’s that negativity, that unawareness of one’s spirit that Iyanla is tring to rid the world of.

      Self awareness, our outlook is the key to our overall well-being. And it’s the state of your well-being that can have a positive or negative impact on those around you. It’s a domino effect.

  • Author Sarina

    I don’t judge one but judge the fruit n we ALL learn from our mistakes as long as we are growing n moving forward. I for one learned a lot from her, learned how to release my past, and yes, with God, and her help stand free today. I don’t understand why people find such enjoyment in holding others past mistakes over their heads n trashing them? I’m sure you have some old rotted skeletons you would not appreciate someone bringing up when you were trying to move on. If Oprah forgave her n God has forgiven her then who are we or you to hold it over her? I mean really some people just need to get a life of their own n leave others alone. If you disagree w her then just don’t watch. Simple. Blessings n I pray you find peace soon.

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  • Guest

    i think you meant “Yoruba priestess” not princess. : )

  • Thesavvysista

    I think the problem with a lot of us is the fact that we are so focused on the messenger, that we lose the message.  We are all humans who are flawed.  If a flawed being can shake your faith in something then maybe the problem lies with you.  Iyanla has been a powerful vessel for teaching life’s lessons.  Is she a perfect being?  Far from it.  Does she have a long way to go in her own life? Yes. But does these things nullify her teachings?  I think not.

  • Mickeymouse1053

    Again how dare another like this paper judge another if you haven’t walk in another shoes what right are you to throw stone at glass window. Why should we read your post. Because honest in life which Vanzant comes with is such a gift in life. How many famous people tell the reall God honest truth about what really going on. Also on national TV. I praise Ms. Vanzant of knowing how to be humble and to tell the absolute truth.

    Blessing to You all

  • Jen

    I never did so I’m good.

  • Goldie

    I watched Oprah’s Life Classes and the ones with Iyanla were some of the best.  I’ll be watching Iyanla’s show.  I don’t need or expect perfection from any human being.  I’ve received good advice or insight from friends who’ve been in the middle of their own mess but could clearly see the obvious in my situation.  Likewise, I’ve received some of the worse advice from people who looked like they should know what they were talking about.  

    And some on her sound like some serious haters. 

  • sunsetssplendor

    We’re all works in progress. I’ve gained little gems from Iyanla’s books that aid in helping me progress into the being I so aspire to be. We’re all flawed and I wish her continued success.

  • This woman is shiesty with a capital “S”.  I don’t think that she’s qualified to give people advice.

    • Goldie

      You say that based on what?  She’s different from the others how?

  • Nestafan2

    I don’t think Oprah’s approach was passive-aggressive at all.  Most of us would put the breaks on a conversation where someone is trying to blame us for EVERYTHING that went wrong in the friendship/relationship.  I don’t have a problem with Iyanla making mistakes; I have a problem with her not learning from them.  Book after book, she is struggling with the same issues.  And what makes it so bad, she knows she’s making the mistake while she’s making the mistake and doesn’t stop herself.  I hope she is more enlightened these days.

  • mispris006

    She said even on Oprah that she was not living what she was teaching and God humbled her. Now i dont thing everything she says is 100% for me – but i think she has value to add and has hopefully learned and grown as we all do.

    I will watch and support the show as long as its well done and what she is saying is sensible.

    If we only took counsel from people who even 80% walked their talk heck we wouldnt listen to anyone, lol. How may preachers, priests and others fall short. Iyanla is no better or worse – but she has the authenticity to make me believe she “knows” at least some of my pain.

    I wont put the sister all the way down without even giving her a shot.


  • She admitted she was going to commit suicide on Oprah, I don’t think I could trust her “sound advice.”

    • Come on now – that was after her daughter died from cancer! I think thats a little unfair. Not sure if you have kids or not but losing a child Im sure cant be compared to any pain on earth.

      •  I’m sure some of the people she counseled had been through similar situations and she told them to “be strong”  Please…

    • what are u saying?!!!!! so a person goes through the mills find a aray of hope while going throw come back to give others an aray of hope after almost commiting suicide and you say that. I hope that u never have a fam member or any one for that matter need help or call out. youd just shut them out after because they cant have an come back to say anything.  

      •  Not true. I know people who lost their child in death and didn’t consider suicide.  She’s supposed be a counselor and considered it??? What happen to ‘stay strong?’ I’m just not buying it…

        • Lana

          Old post, but….
          “I know people who lost their child in death and didn’t consider suicide” this proves absolutely nothing. How ignorant of you to assume that all grieving parents respond the same way. How old are you?!?!

  • Gmarie

    Even therapists consult with other therapists. All of us are in the process of trying to find our way. I hope she finds success on the OWN network

  • Open Heart

    Sooo – I saw the Oprah interview too…I walked away with two thoughts..I felt Lady O did her best to humilate Iyanla (who is not without fault) in terms of “explaining” her side of the story – too passive aggressive for me.  Reminded me of how she and Whoopi thought they were mad at each other because of some perceived slight that never occurred but insecurity and doubt kept them both from speaking to each other for years. Oprah – aren’t you all about communication?  Why do you fall back if you have an issue with a black woman?

    My 2nd thought – I wholeheartedly agree with yall  – Iyanla needed to own up to her short-comings.  She’s still learning in her journey as we all are.  We should get Politics make strange bedfellows – now they both need each other.  Say what you want – Iyanla has good common sense advice we all need to hear.  I hope her show does well and that she and Oprah can help each other.  

  • Hoyd90

    i have watch and waited for this time to come with oprah and ayanla…i love these two people as a black women im glad they got it together ayanla is more powerful now that she seen the forrest through the trees i tdruly believe she will help alot of people and now maybe we can finally have our version of the black ddr phil in her…i think more black people will open up to her cause she is relavant to black culture…kodos to op…thank you op

  • Tcleckley

    I love Iyanla Vanzant…read all her books…believe in her message. Yet, I am wise enough to also side with this article.  I will, however, watch her show, just to see what it is about.

  • First of all her name is Rhonda. Secondly, she probably has never even been to Nigeria yet she’s a Yoruba priestess and finally, weren’t the Yoruba’s the ones that initiated selling their own people during the slave trade. Yes, I’m sure they have so much to teach us. Girl, bye! No one cares about Rhonda’s philosophies.

  • Izdabes

    I was a bit younger than the generation that was a part of the Iyanla “love thyself” frenzy.  I was privy to doses of her mother-earth (love that btw) tone and advice.  There was a bit of comfort that I found in some of the advice she gave to women on that show.  On the converse there was a lack of transparency that a women of her (supposed) level of intelligence possessed that always kept me at bay.  In general, I’ve found that those women who claim to have a grasp of ancient traditions – have failed to connect with one of the oldest traditions – the law/life of mutual respect.  I do hope that in her steps forward she can be more honest/respectful with herself and let that sentiment flow over to her viewers.  I’ve got to keep it real though, I won’t be watching… I’ve got to get my s**t together and don’t have time for all that.  😉

  • Mariah

    If people can take advice from Terrance Dean or read a book on relatonships by Ray J…Iyanla and her personal issues (which we all have) is no worse.  I actually think this just shows how you never really stop learning, making mistakes and growing. She’s human, which makes me like her even more.

    • Lynn22

      I can like a person, and still realize they’re not the source of life coaching tips! lyanla is still not doing one basic thing she preaches to others – owning up to her big time screw-ups. I listened to her quite well, and at the end she was clear. “None of this was really my fault, y’all”. Please. I wish her well, but won’t be taking notes when she shares “wisdom”.

      • Mariah

        I won’t even be watching so it makes me no difference either way.  I’m saying there are worse people to get advice from.

      • Goldie

        I watched the same interview and didn’t hear that at all.  But you entitled to your opinion but recognize it was nothing there for you but others can clearly feel differently.

  • Nestafan2

    After viewing the “Oprah” show, I kept thinking, ‘Why can’t Iyanla just admit she was wrong?’  She blamed everybody but herself.  She even claimed she never intended to leave Harpo, yet took a meeting with Barbara Walters and accepted an offer.  She claimed she thought Oprah wanted the work and not her, but Barbara Walter knew nothing about her, and had never even read her books, and she Barbara was really interested in her and not the work?  In her book “Peace from Broken Pieces” she admits she didn’t handle her business the way she should have (well, sort of).  But she couldn’t admit it out loud.  She still has work to do.

  • Dee

    I totally agree! I’ve been wondering the same thing about her. 

  • AlanaGraves

    Yeah I watched the Oprah interview and it was kind of sad. She has a very big ego and I think she made it seem as if Oprah dismissed her so she would have someone to blame for her poor decisions. Hopefully she will show that she was truly worth a second chance with her new show.

  • Lynn22

    I watched her on Oprah and read a few of her affirmations – superficial and no depth, so I laughed it off and ignored her. Her “reunion” with Oprah confirmed my impression years ago. The lady seemed all ego even back then before I knew of any of the behind the scenes drama. Her show was laugable, her wisdom about as deep as a bird bath. I predict her new show won’t resonate. Who can ignore her own drama filled life that went on while she was dispensing her “wisdom” to other women? Undermining her colleagues, stabbing others in the back, etc. Please.

    • AnnaRenee

      Wow, its sad, that once again, we arent able to uplift and learn from each other. If you pay close attention, you’ll see that Iyanla has been moving forward in a way that few black women with her background of a “dysfunctional” family can admit. One thing Iyanla does admit often, is that she’s “crazy”. What does that mean? That she is a work in progress.  That she has had numerous issues and situations.  She has lived through losing her daughter, her husband, her home, and she survived it all.   She’s a work in progress, and thats all any one of us is, and can be.

      Here are two black women in power positions, works in progress trying to be relevant on a level that not too many black women are in. How does a black woman on Oprah’s level relate to people? Should she lord it over them? Should she manipulate and trick them? No. Oprah is mentoring women.  White women are soaking in the advice to live better lives.  All women are.  Because smart women recognize a gift when they see one.   Oprah is mentoring Iyanla. That’s what she was doing before, even as she herself was learning. Oprah admitted her issues in that great sitdown they had.  She’s a work in progress.  There’s never been a black female billionaire in America’s history, so how is that supposed to look?  How is she supposed to act?  She’s supposed to be gracious and humble and giving.  She’s supposed to give back, and she is.  She’s teaching Iyanla how to be responsible with the great gift of mentorship that God has given her.  Iyanla has a gift for encouragement, and she uses herself as the lesson.  Iyanla ALWAYS talks about the issues she’s gone through, the pain she inflicted on herself and how she made it through. 

      God gives us gifts, yet he does not take away our issues like a magic genie. We have to work on our issues with humility. How do two black women do that, when black women are always being put down and ridiculed? How do they do that without becoming bitter? Ladies, pay attention to Iyanla and Oprah. When God gives you guides and teachers, dont toss it away. If you do, then you have no right to complain about how black women are always mistreated. Because God gave you a powerful example of black womanhood moving towards his grace and learning how to live right when he gave us Oprah and Iyanla. Please stop blocking your blessings.

      • Evette

        @Annarenee thank you for that I agree 100% Iyanla is human and her latest book tells it all she is very candid in that book.

      • wow!! perfectly put!! what more could u ask for? ive read Iyanla’s books before when i wasnt into Oprah’s show. which i must say is great, but point being that there is someone to minister to each person with there own style.

      • Crystal Durham

        You’re right that she’s human. She deserves opportunity. I’m not a fan of Dr. Phil’s either, but he has a few catch-phrases that I find convenient sometimes. One is “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” I watched one of Ilynana’s shows, this particular one being about a gay young woman struggling with coming out. Ilyana’s advice and behavior was so bad and so disrespectful, I realized I could never watch her again. All she did was piss me off — and she’s ruined the OWN network for me. Black or white, when you come off as a know-it-all and yell at people to incite drama for your show (at their expense), I’ve got nothing for you.

    • Goldie

      Honey,  who you been watching? All those bestsellers and popularity on Oprah and you mean it was all shallow nothing that only you could see.  LOL