Was Oprah Right to Dump Iyanla Vanzant?
Iyanla Vanzant is widely considered the mother of modern African American self-help. Her unique writing style, a masterful blend of candid self-disclosure and a range of spiritual teachings, propelled her to the top of the genre during the mid-nineties. Indeed, eleven years ago Iyanla Vanzant was on top of the world. She was a widely respected and successful speaker, writer and relationship coach with an audience of millions, thanks to her regular appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Today she is still successful, although her star has somewhat diminished since she was one of Oprah’s experts.
Yesterday, Iyanla appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to set the record straight on what really happened between her and the Queen of Daytime, as well as promote her new book Peace from Broken Pieces. Peace from Broken Pieces details her life in the last decade and details how she was able to bounce back from her falling out with Oprah, a divorce, the devastating loss of her daughter, as well as her fortune.
When I learned that Iyanla was going to be on Oprah, I was excited and eager to hear both sides of the story on their well-documented split. And this first of a two-part interview did not disappoint those seeking excitement. During the interview Iyanla recalled that eleven years ago she was in preliminary discussions with Oprah about developing her own show. Oprah had made it clear that she had every intent of turning her into an even bigger media sensation, but that the timing was off and Iyanla needed to wait. During this time, none other than the legendary Barbara Walters contacted Iyanla and offered her a show that could begin production immediately. By the stroke of luck and God’s grace, Iyanla suddenly found herself in the most enviable of situations: being courted by the two reigning Queens of Media.
In the face of such an enormous, life-altering decision, Iyanla embarked upon an eight-day fast in an effort to gain the mental and spiritual clarity needed to make such a monumental choice. She then went back to Oprah and essentially gave her an ultimatum: give me a show now or I have someone “big” in the business who is prepared to do it now instead. In the interview Oprah said “She (Iyanla) said she had been fasting for seven days and that God told her that it was the anointed time, not the appointed time (for her to launch her own show). Well, I wasn’t going to go against God.” Two weeks later Oprah’s corporate attorneys served Iyanla with papers that effectively terminated their working relationship.
As I watched both women recount their version of what transpired, one thing stood out. After eleven years, Iyanla has still not taken responsibility for her part in the breakdown of their relationship. Instead I saw the dramatic pleadings of woman still struggling to understand how fear and ambition led her to torpedo her relationship with her mentor, friend and patron. She began the interview begging for forgiveness, and then quickly devolved into deflecting, manipulating and pouting her way through the hour.
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