MADE by Ashley White
I must admit, before conducting this interview, I really wanted Iyanla Vanzant to help me fix my life, but as I talked to her, I was reminded that I’m responsible for doing my own [inner] work. In this exclusive interview with MADE, Iyanla opens up about her biggest life lessons, how to tackle those tough life lessons and more…
MADE: We’re looking forward to the new season of Iyanla: Fix My Life! Last season, there seems to be a focus on family. How do you and your team come up with the theme for each season?
Iyanla: I don’t know how they come up with it, but I pray to find out what I’m being guided and asked to do. So I think prayer is one thing. Also, setting an intention for what it is we want each season of the show to do. Clear intentions.
MADE: Have you ever had a guest whose life experience really stuck with you or affected you after filming an episode?
Iyanla: No, I don’t get attached to it that way. I really don’t. I think what I try to do is give the guest whatever it is that they ask for. I think what surprises me more than anything else is that when the guest leaves, they don’t do their work. Every guest leaves with information or recommendations—I call it a prescription for what they need to do to accomplish whatever it is they say they desire. It’s always surprising to me that guests go back to the same situation, doing the same thing and think that something is going to change. If they don’t do the work, nothing is going to change. Nothing.
MADE: Can you talk about some of the work you had to do for yourself? What are your three biggest life lessons that really shaped the person you are today?
Iyanla: I would say the importance of telling the absolute truth about what you feel, what you see, what you know, what you think and what’s going on because that gets people in a lot of trouble—not telling the truth.
The other one is trusting the process. Meaning the process of whatever life is for you in that moment for you. Just knowing that everything is working out for your good, even when its uncomfortable or difficult. That’s a big lesson for everybody.
And, knowing who you are. I say that all the time, but it’s just so important for people to understand who they are. And who you are is not what has happened to you. But who you are is how you see yourself and how you hold yourself out in the world. That’s so important.
MADE: From watching you on television and reading your books, we’ve learned that a big part of doing our work is addressing our upbringing. How can we identify our generational curses and what can we do to make sure it ends with us?
Iyanla: You have to look at the patterns in your life—things that you keep going through, over and over again. Or look at the people around you. Your elders, your parents, whoever it is that raised you or the stories you’ve heard about them. See how that’s showing up in your life. One generational curse is poverty. Generation to generation, people just seem to be stuck in the same place. You have to look at what those people are doing and how they’re thinking and how they’re speaking. But a generational curse can also be how you approach life. How you handle situations when they come up because we learn that.
So very often, we try so hard not to be like our elders and ancestors and we end up doing the very same thing. We go to the opposite end of the spectrum and we end up doing the very same thing. I think one of the challenges with millennials—I didn’t even know what a millennial was. I just thought it was people in their late 20s or 30s. I call them the “youngins” (laughs)—they don’t really have a real grasp on history and culture. By the time these people are born, we were so assimilated into this society, that there are just pieces and parts of us that we have no clue about. We talk to a lot of young people about the importance of the struggle or the challenges that their parents or grandparents faced, but they have no clue what you’re talking about. None. You look at any culture of people—you look at the Asian culture, you look at the Jewish culture, these people hold on to their history and use it as lessons. As cautionary tales. As prescriptions. We’re the only people who don’t do that.
MADE: Another part of becoming whole is dealing with loss. How can we deal with loss in a healthy way? Whether it’s a loss of a loved one or a relationship that we thought would last forever.
Iyanla: Well, you call it loss, but I’m trying to figure out why we think we possessed it in the first place. Why isn’t it just an experience? An experience that’s supposed to help you grow and learn. Move you through. We think that everything that touches us is ours. Well, a lot of young people do. I think older people have a better sense of it. Just because it passes through your life doesn’t mean you have ownership or possession of it. Whether it’s a person or an experience. Loss is a natural part of life. And I think we need to be more open to what loss teaches us. And what it shows us.
MADE: That’s powerful. I read that you debuted a line of body products on HSN in April. Can you tell us how that came about?
Iyanla: I have a line of natural body products called MasterPeace Body Therapy which is a product line made of natural African Black Soap and I use natural African Black Soap because of its healing properties for skin and hair and because it’s made mostly by women in Africa. The product line was started by my daughter, Gemmia, prior to her death in 2003. She used herbs, and I added the oils to help people clean their energy as they clean their body. We’re clear about washing this and washing that, but we don’t think about the energy. So MasterPeace is designed to clean energy as it cleans the body.
I also just released my very first app, Awakenings With Iyanla Vanzant, for smartphones and it’s a daily coaching app. Meaning each day you get an audio message from me of principles that will guide you through the day. It’s exciting to me because people are always writing me and asking me for help and I always say to them, you have to do the work. Then they want to know what the work is—so here it is.
Another big thing that’s going on is my second book, Acts of Faith: Daily Meditations For People of Color is turning 25 years old! It’s a classic and when I wrote Acts of Faith, people weren’t talking about spiritual work out loud. Particularly in the African American community. Eric Copage wrote Black Pearls, I think the same year or the year before Acts Of Faith. Luisah Teish wrote Jambalaya, I think two years before Acts Of Faith. So by then, people were just ready to start talking about their spiritual growth and development based on a cultural perspective. So Acts of Faith is a book with 365 days of things to consider.
MADE: That’s awesome, congrats! You’ve accomplished so much and have impacted a lot of people. What do you want your legacy to be?
Iyanla: I have to be. You don’t know what your legacy will be because you don’t determine what your legacy will be. Everyone else does. I know what the purpose of my life is and how I attempt to live that every day. That is to be a service to God and to other people. To be a demonstration that my children and grandchildren and great grandchildren can follow. Now that’s my purpose. Now how people write that up, I’m not responsible for that.
Watch Iyanla: Fix My Life returns to OWN in January. Clean your energy with MasterPeace Body Therapy and start your day with Awakenings with Iyanla Vanzant.
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