Friday, November 16, 2012

5Qs on Friday: Iyanla

Iyanla's Fix My Life is a Hit on OWN - Just Don't Call It a Show

If you've watched OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network lately, there's a good chance you've seen Iyanla Vanzant in action.

You may have seen her plant herself on a patch of grass until stubborn twin sisters confronted their family problems head on, after years of running away from them. Or you may have caught her sitting down at the dinner table with six friends whose potential TV show was derailed by backstabbing and mistrust.

Iyanla's Fix My Life (OWN - Saturday, 10pm) has the one-time Oprah Winfrey Show regular guest, and the host of the 2001 talk show Iyanla, tapping into her expertise to help people solve problems. Iyanla is the author of several bestsellers, like "In the Meantime: Finding Yourself and the Love You Want."

Iyanla spoke with TVFirstLook about the incredibly painful tragedies she has lived through since Iyanla went off the air, working again with Oprah and the journey that led to "Peace from Broken Pieces."

TVFirstLook: I'm tempted to describe Fix My Life as a talk show. But it's more than that, right?

Iyanla Vanzant: I don't describe it as a show. It's a workshop. It's designed so that the viewing audience participates. For each show, we have a study guide. And we explore issues that can apply to anyone, even if the story's details don't apply to you.

TVFirstLook: On Fix My Life, including Saturday's episode with Maia Campbell (In the House), you take a somewhat unconventional approach to therapy. What's your approach to helping people?

Iyanla: I interrupt the process. I interrupt the story that got them into trouble. I give them information. I do the work. I don't do the fixing.

I'm a coach. My job is to make sure that people have the information they need to win. The first thing I do is dismantle the bad behavior, the bad beliefs, the things you say and do that don't help you win in life.

I interrupt and, hopefully, provide people with a new perspective.

My formula is to identify the problem, identify the possible causes of the problem, interrupt the story, give new skills and information and then challenge them to put it into action.

TVFirstLook: How did Fix My Life come together on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network?

Iyanla: I was invited by Miss Winfrey to participate in Lifeclass. When the network started, they did that show every night. We came together on Fridays to review the week.

One day, she said, "You need to have your own show." I said, "OK." It was that simple.

I didn't know what it would be at first. I knew it would be about teaching, healing and giving people information to do better in their lives.

It started out as an in-studio show. Then, we experimented with going to the people. That way, they are not vulnerable. They're in a secure and safe environment. That takes off a lot of pressure from them.

But they also can't walk out. They're already home!

TVFirstLook: Is there anything you learned from hosting Iyanla that you're putting into practice on Fix My Life?

Iyanla: It exposed me to the television process. That was wonderful. But it also taught me what not to do with a television show, which is living up to someone else's vision. I didn't get to do what I do, which is teach, heal and support.

TVFirstLook: Between then and now, you lived through some incredibly tragic times, which came together with your book, "Peace from Broken Pieces." What happened and how did you get through it?

Iyanla: After the Iyanla show ended, I lost my sister one year, my brother the next year and my daughter the next year. I ended a 40-year relationship. I lost my publishing contract.

It was rock bottom. Rock bottom. I had to start all over.

I have always been a student of life, so the thing that inspired me was asking myself, "Why is this happening?" I couldn't get caught up in what was happening because it was already happening. So, once I was inspired not to give up, I had to investigate why this was happening. I detail all that in "Peace from Broken Pieces."

Like, some things happen generation to generation. My mother died when I was 3 years old. My mother's mother died when she was 12. Now, my daughter died and she left a daughter.

I looked into all the commonalities and I examined how I am responding to them.

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