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.
The Root: When you were about to speak at the State of the Black Union, you said you were taking a risk. Were you nervous about how people would perceive you?
Vanzant: No, not all … what I hope happens from my sharing was that people understood, just like me, we are all subject to the prevails of life.
The Root: What reactions have you gotten from your supporters?
Vanzant: Oh my God! People think I’m homeless! [Laughter].
The Root: Really?
Vanzant: It’s so kind. I got $20 in the mail. I keep getting e-mails about it. But people think I’m homeless, and I guess that’s because I didn’t go into the minute details of the story, so it’s like people think this happened yesterday.
The Root: The woman sitting next to me in the audience said we should send you money.
Vanzant: Bless their hearts. The bigger thing for me is I raised my grandson. He’s 17 now and getting ready to go off to college. And so I need to understand what impact this will have on my ability to get him a school loan …. And I have a 14-year-old granddaughter that I acquired in June, but there are hundred of thousands of women in my situation. They thought they were done. And then at 50, 60, 65, they’ve got teenagers or babies that they’re raising. A roll of toilet paper used to last me two months. Now it’s gone in four days. And that’s an increased expense. It sounds silly, but it’s real.
The Root: Where are you living now?
Vanzant: I’mrenting a house that sits on 30 acres of land that are historic properties. The land that I live on housed the post office and the train station that black people used in this area if they were traveling on the train up to the North beyond Maryland or if they had to go to the post office. Those two structures are on the property that I live on.
The Root: What’s next for you?
Vanzant: I’ve gotten offers to do all kinds of stuff. I have another publishing deal. I just put out another book—“Taping the Power Within.” It will be 20 years old in September and a revised edition was re-released. I’m in the midst of writing a book …. My current pet project is to reunite fathers with their children. That’s what I’ve been called to do, by any means necessary, to work with the fathers, the mothers and the children, so that these fathers can be in a relationship with their children. That’s how we’re going avoid the prison’s revolving door.
The Root: How are you going to do this project?
Vanzant: It will come to me.
The Root: In your teachings, you say there’s a lesson to be learned in life experiences. What lesson did you learn?
Vanzant: The greatest lesson for me was never count on what you might have. Count on what you do have. Had I counted on what I did have, I would’ve never gone into that kind of mortgage deal. I also learned just how much I can do without. I learned to do without the house. I learned to live without my daughter, which was much more challenging. Still is challenging. I learned to live without my husband. I learned that true healing is a process …. Once the process begins you have to buckle up and ride it all the way through. Even though it may not seem like it at the time, you always come out better than you were. Always.
Jeneé Darden is a freelance journalist living in Los Angeles and blogs at Cocoa Fly.