J2J Day 10: Iyanla Vanzant on Oprah


I was on Oprah today.  OK.  Blink.  You missed me.  Several times.

I was in the audience for almost all of Iyanla Vanzant’s twenty-two appearances on Oprah.  I vividly recall the Maundy Thursday in 1998 when Oprah struggled to pronounce Iyanla’s name correctly prior to the start of taping.  I was in the audience because I had the audacity to tell Oprah that she needed to put on her track shoes to catch up with small-town librarian Marilyn Stanton.

Mrs. Stanton is better than Amazon in predicting the books people will want to read.  She seized the popularity of a book 18 months before Oprah.  I read the book at Mrs. Stanton’s suggestion and drove 70 miles to buy this book I’d already read when Oprah made it her book club selection.

I sent Oprah a letter giving her serious shit about this granny librarian who could run serious rings around Oprah.

Oprah’s producers called Mrs. Stanton and invited her to be on the show.  But, Mrs. Stanton’s boss couldn’t handle the fact that she had landed in Oprah’s spotlight.  Mrs. Stanton and I decided I would go in her place and get us free copies of Oprah’s newest book club selection.

We were so hoping that Black & Blue by Anna Quindlen wouldn’t be her selection.  Bingo.  Crap.  I wanted to read any book but Black & Blue.  These were the days when Oprah taped her conversations with the audience after the show but didn’t air the after-the-show segments.

I sat in the back with an itching butt.  Please, please, please, Oprah, can we get the hell out of here?  But, Oprah kept asking questions.  Crap.

I didn’t want to read Black & Blue.  I just wanted to leave before the turmoil inside me erupted.  I kept my mouth shut.  I sure as hell didn’t want to reveal my secret shame of domestic violence.  And, I sure as hell didn’t want to tell it to Oprah.  But, she kept asking questions.  I kept a sock in it.  Please, please, please, can we go home?  Nope.  Oprah was highly curious.  She had lots of questions for her audience.

All of a sudden ~  I still don’t know what possessed me.  I stood up and told Oprah I didn’t want to read the book.  It was shortly after her cattle trial in Texas.  She presumed the man who had abused me was a cop.  Wrong.  He was a judge.  An appeallate court judge.  It was the first time I had the guts to tell my story.  To Oprah.  What the hell was I thinking?

Oprah, who rarely gets flustered, was shocked.  She begged me to write a review of the book.  I refused.  She turned on the full-court press that I ultimately couldn’t refuse.

I read the damned book.  I wrote the review Oprah had requested on Easter Sunday.  I suggested she create a panel of experts who could teach women how to become empowered.

Iyanla Vanzant was her first expert.  The next two seasons of Oprah were “Change Your Life TV.”  My idea.  I didn’t get a dime.  I did get invited to her show a bunch of times.  My comments that fateful day were featured when she was celebrated as a legend.

Tonight I discovered that my letter to Oprah inspired the Dr. Phil show and all its progeny.  Holy crap.  I didn’t get a dime.  Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Suze Orman,  and OWN.  Not one damned dime.  Not even an invitation to join Oprah in Australia or today when Iyanlan Vanzant returned.

Yet, this was Iyanla’s message today.  We so often don’t appreciate or realize our worth.  We don’t demand our due.  We are so familiar with the role of doormat that we don’t timely say “hell no!”  And, we don’t have the courage and confidence to engage in meaningful conversation.  Instead, we assume that we aren’t valued.

Big mistake.  Huge mistake.

We need to be cautious about our assumptions.  Sometimes our conditioning can cloud our perception of reality.  This is why we need to put out the doormat that Susan Wiggs featured on her blog:

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2 responses to “J2J Day 10: Iyanla Vanzant on Oprah

  1. Wow! I just watched the “O Show” last night. I am so glad I subscribed to your blog Before I saw Iyanla. I could watch it again, and I will look for you in the audience. My husband watched the show with me. He thought she was crazy, but he had never seen her on “O” before, and did not really “buy in” to her message.

  2. Helen,

    I’m glad you subscribed too. Iyanla Vanzant is a DV survivor and former attorney. We have much in common, but I’m getting the sense that her life might have gone from bust to boom back to bust again. I’m not totally sure she’s able to walk her talk.

    Oprah’s decision that Iyanla wasn’t quite ready for prime time was spot on. There were some shows that her producers had to substantially edit to have something of quality to put on the air. My sense is that Oprah and her team are way better producers than Barbara Walters.

    If you taped yesterday’s show and still have it, I would love, love, love a copy. Of course, I will pay you for it. I’m not currently able to tape shows, and yesterday’s show is one I’d like to see again.

    Kudos to your hubby for watching with you. Did you reward him with pie?

    Sending hugs,
    Anne Caroline

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