By now, many of us are aware of the fact that this is the last season of “Iyanla Fix My Life.” Recently, we had the chance to speak to Ms. Vanzant about the end of the show, what she will do next (Spoiler: She has nothing planned.), how religion can hinder living an authentic life and the importance of rest. You can listen to the interview below or read the transcript.
MadameNoire: You said months ago that people can be very mean and unkind. And you don’t need that energy in your life anymore and that’s one of the reasons you’re leaving “Fix My Life.”
I wonder how you will reflect on this experience, will you be grateful and happy that you did it. Or will you think ‘Them people wore me out. And it’s time for a break.’
Iyanla Vanzant: No. It didn’t have anything to do with the guests. Never the guests. It’s the trolls on social media, the judges and the critics. And the nasty things they would say, not only about me but about the guests. It took me a couple of seasons to teach people in my thread that you can’t come in here and talk about someone who’s courageous enough to stand in i of the world with their problem. “Fix My Life” was always meant to be participatory, so that the viewer would see themselves or someone that they know and find information that they can share.
But you’re talking about the people’s hair and their clothes. That’s not kind and loving. It didn’t have anything to do with the guests at all.
I’m leaving because God told me to leave. It’s complete, it’s done. The purpose that I came to serve, the intention that I had. “Fix My Life” has created a whole new genre of television. And I did it with love. I did it with love, honor and dignity, with all my clothes on and very few cuss words, other than gutter snipe.
MN: Can you talk a little bit about when you got the message from God that you had done the work you were supposed to do with the show?
Iyanla: You know I have a very, very consistent and deep prayer practice. You can’t be in service to God’s people and not be in devotion to God. So I always pray and ask for guidance. It was well over a year ago, way before the corona. And I really heard, ‘It’s complete. It’s done.’ I’ve learned to be obedient. When I get an internal message like that, I’m not saying, ‘Where am I going to work? How am I going to pay my bills?’ What’s my job?’
I don’t know. It’s done. If I don’t have that level of spiritual support, divine support, it’s me. It’s my ego and that will never work.
MN: I saw you tweet that it’s very important that adults not involve children in adult business. And we see the adultification of Black children systematically, whether it’s the police or the school system. But also we do that in our own family structures. Can you speak to the importance of making sure there is a separation between children and adults?
Iyanla: Culturally, for us. It’s the older sibling taking care of the younger one. My sister had to take me everywhere. She hated it and on some days she hated me. When she wasn’t available I had to go with my brother. That’s cultural but it’s grown into this other thing. Where parents will actually make the other children responsible for the younger children.
That’s one part.
The bigger part is when the parents place their worries, traumas, upset, woes on the children and expect them to do something about it. I was on public assistance. My kids did not know we were on welfare. I didn’t talk to them about my money source, how little it was or that we might not have lights next week. I didn’t talk to my kids about that stuff.
I didn’t put that on them.
Telling our kids about our boyfriends and bills, no, no, no. It puts too much. Last week, our show was about the woman who told her son, ‘You’re the man of the house now.’ No. No, you’re not.
MN: These days Black people are more open to therapy and healing work but there still is a stigma within our community about that work. Do you believe it’s because people don’t want to be confronted with their true selves or they don’t want to be held accountable for the new information they’ve learned?
Iyanla: It’s not just us. But it affects us differently. Culturally, we couldn’t afford to have anything wrong with us. We’re already Black, we’re already poor. We’re already on the lowest rungs so to say ‘Something is wrong with me.’ Because that’s the stigma we place on mental and emotional health—you can’t have nothing wrong with you.
Ancestrally, historically, generationally we had to be strong. We had to be strong when they stole our babies, when they whipped our men, when they moved us around. And to acknowledge a weakness is antithetical to who we are at the core and essence of our being.
Then the stigma around mental health: not only are you Black, ‘there’s something wrong with you and you’re crazy?! No, that’s too much.’
But it’s shifting. It’s changing. I think where we get stuck or caught is in our aversion to a more holistic life approach in general. ‘Energy healing, astrology, numerology is wrong. It’s bad.’ We’re indigenous people and we don’t have a relationship with the earth. People will put on a thong and get on a pole before they go hug a tree.
MN: Do you believe religion can keep people from living healed and whole lives?
Iyanla: How you gon’ ask a minister…I would say absolutely! Absolutely. Because it’s someone else’s experience of God. The real religion is in your heart. Religion is man-made. Spirituality is God-given. Your real religion is the condition of your heart. And so, we’ve been force fed a theology that diminishes and demeans who we are as people of color and who we are as women. As Dr. Na’im Akbar says, ‘Your religion might stay the same but your theology must evolve.’
I’m not talking about changing the text of the sacred book, I’m talking about applying it to the way we live.
Do you know the things that religion has been used to oppress people.
So, yes I do believe religion can hold people back. And I’m an ordained minister, I love God and I’m a student of the Bible, The Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, The Course of Miracles, The Way of Mastery, and everything else sacred.
People get so afraid of going to hell that they don’t live authentically on earth.
MN: What does your next phase look like? You really don’t know?
Iyanla: Why would I leave something and planning to do something else. Let me enjoy the leaving. I may be leaving for the next five months. I don’t have to do that anymore. I’m not trying to build a career. I don’t have children to take care of. If I want to go buy a tiny house and catch my dinner in the lake, I can do that too. I don’t know and I don’t need to know. I know it’s going to be just like my dogs. One’s name is Peace and the other’s name is Freedom. That’s where I’m headed.
MN: Let me speak to you about that. Black people in this country were brought here to work. And so we feel like if we’re not working, something is not right. So can you speak to the importance of rest and restoration after you’ve done your good work?
Iyanla: Or while you’re doing your good work. While you’re doing your good work, your me time, your study time, your prayer time, your down time.
I get a lot of phone calls and it was just crazy. I’ve got a manager, two lawyers, I had eight producers. My children, grand-children, great grandchildren and a partner and friends and the phone ringing.
I found myself becoming so annoyed. And then one day, I heard, in my head, ‘Iyanla, you are under no obligation to answer the phone because it rings.’
Rest is how we replenish, it’s how we renew. A human body is built on a 24-hour clock but that doesn’t mean you have to occupy all 24 hours in your conscious mind. There’s a time for everything: a time to rest, a time to work, a time to play. How many people never play? Just don’t play. I don’t care what—you could play with yourself. You could play with other people. But you gotta play.
Just play. Even when I give a workshop and I give people this great intention, ‘It’s our intention to access the deepest essence of our being so that we can uproot anything that no longer supports our highest and greatest good and we are having fun in the process.’
Play, have fun.