Starting Over: How Iyanla Lost Her Home

In a conversation with The Root, Iyanla Vanzant opens up about living without health insurance, losing her daughter to cancer and her home to a subprime mortgage.


A few weekends ago, I rolled out of bed early Saturday morning to attend Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union symposium in Los Angeles. Like many Americans, I’m out of work. My money is tighter than a black power fist, and finding a job is challenging. So I was eager to get a dose of motivation from one of the panelists, best-selling author and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant.

She has motivated millions around the world with her life coaching and openness about overcoming her own past hardships—abusive relationships, teen pregnancy and poverty. But I was shocked when Vanzant announced to the audience that she lost her house in 2006 and didn’t have health insurance. I could hear the “wows” ripple through the audience. How did this happen, and what gave her courage to share her story?

I caught up with Vanzant after the State of the Black Union. Between 2001-2003, she lost her 31-year-old daughter to colon cancer and two siblings also passed away. While dealing with the foreclosure of her million dollar, four-bedroom home she bought in 1995 on five acres of land in Anne Arundel County, Md., she was going through a divorce. Vanzant broke down to me what happened and how she’s still standing.

The Root: While on the State of the Black Union panel, you said you got a bad mortgage deal you didn’t understand. What kind of mortgage did you have?

Iyanla Vanzant: What I had was a balloon payment on the end of my mortgage. So I had to pay the interest for five years, then pay the total amount of the mortgage at the end of those five years. While at the time it seemed like a very good idea, [but due to] the changes and fluxes in my income, when it came time to make the balloon payments, I didn’t have the money to pay it. And so they forced me to sell my house.

The Root: Did you talk to a financial expert to dig yourself out of this situation?

Vanzant: I have an accountant, and I have a financial attorney. Both of them said the same thing, “You have to pay this off.” And I didn’t have the money to pay it off. It was real simple.

The Root: You are a best-selling author, TV personality and attorney. What else was going on financially that prevented you from saving your home?

The Root: I imagine when you’re going through something like that, it feels good to know you’re not the only one.