The Root Interview: Iyanla Vanzant on ‘Peace From Broken Pieces’

Motivational speaker Iyanla Vanzant has survived the death of her daughter, a divorce, foreclosure and the cancellation of her talk show. She spoke to The Root about her new book, the truth about Oprah and how she endured the hard times.

Iyanla Vanzant (John Lyons)
Iyanla Vanzant (John Lyons)

Iyanla Vanzant has led one hell of a life. The acclaimed author and motivational speaker survived childhood rape, physical and verbal abuse, teen pregnancy, abusive relationships — all by the time she was 30. The next 25 years would be marked by celebratory highs — a successful career; five New York Times best-selling books; a place on The Oprah Winfrey Show; the launch of her nationally syndicated television show, Iyanla — and devastating lows: dismissal from Oprah, the cancellation of Iyanla, her daughter’s death, her third divorce, going broke and losing her home to foreclosure. How could an educated, millionaire spiritual guru like Vanzant experience this?

It’s a question explored honestly in her revealing new book, Peace From Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through. While these tragedies could be enough to push some people over the edge — and yes, she did consider taking that leap — Vanzant instead freed herself from the grasp of self-pity and took a thorough, honest examination of her life.

The Root spoke with Vanzant about how she has managed to endure, the lessons she’s learned, the truth about her relationship with Oprah Winfrey and the failure of her own show, as well as her determination not to pass on to her grandchildren the problems that have plagued her and other family members.

The Root: A lot has changed for you in 10 years. Two obvious changes are that your daughter Gemmia died and you divorced your husband. What else is different?

Iyanla Vanzant: I’m a lot wiser now, having gone through so many losses and changes and transformations in my life that I know what matters. And I know who matters. The people who love and support me are still the people who love and support me. And that matters more to me now than the drive that I once had to build a career. And I’m not trying to build a career any more. My choice is to really be present and enjoy and engage in my life.

TR: You and Dr. Phil used to alternate Tuesday appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the late ’90s, until [Iyanla producer] Barbara Walters lured you away during your contract negotiations with Winfrey. Now Dr. Phil has his own Winfrey-produced TV show and will be a featured expert on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Do you find yourself looking back, thinking, “If only … “?

IV: I really am at peace with what has happened because I know that what God has for me, it is for me. I know that if I’m supposed to be on television, I will be on television. If I [were] supposed to be on Oprah, I would be on Oprah. And every choice has a consequence. And I made certain choices that had certain consequences.

TR: Three or four years after your last Oprah appearance, you and Oprah had a friendly phone conversation about your departure from her show and the Iyanla show’s demise. Have you two talked since?