I am watching Iyanla Vanzant helping an apparently well-known loose cannon from reality television drill down on her anger recently and suddenly I see the importance of what is happening on my screen.
In this moment on her new show Iyanla, Fix My Life, Vanzant is actually drilling into the heart – maybe the underbelly -- of reality TV by questioning behavior and raising an eyebrow on decorum.
In the opening, as she tours Basketball Wives personality Evelyn Lozada’s stark white home and the camera pans over shoe after shoe in her vast closet, I notice something that doesn’t escape Vanzant – what’s with all the shoes covered in studs and spikes? There are so many I get prickly and shift on my couch. Style as repellant.
But when Vanzant mentions it to Lozada, the message seems lost on her. It’s way too insightful and Lozada has only just begun to comprehend what appears to be a long journey ahead to emotional health and behavior modification.
This is Vanzant’s fresh turn on OWN. In the show she employs her extraordinary flair for directness, doesn’t hesitate to draw on her own excruciating life experiences, and is prone to taking her subjects’ hands in her own as she makes them lock in on her eyes and bring out what’s been long buried. The life coach in me is nodding and making mental notes for future discussions with clients as I watch the show unfold.
While I wish Lozada -- and all my fellow humans, for that matter -- a clear path to happiness and peace, I am more focused on Vanzant, what has become of her life and how it is an example of what to do with adversity, defeat and self-doubt. Pay attention. This is learning, people.
Here is part of her background as written on her website:
“Motherless at age 3. Raped at age 9. A mother by age 16. The mother of three by age 21. Married and beaten from age 22 to 30. A college graduate at age 34. A law school graduate at age 38. A publishing force with 15 titles, including five New York Times bestsellers throughout her 40s.”
There is more, but you get the idea of the journey Vanzant has traveled. About a year ago I wrote a Game Plan column reviewing Oprah Winfrey’s Lifeclass show, noting how compelling the chemistry was between Winfrey and Vanzant and how remarkable it was given some missteps and a subsequent rift in the pair’s early relationship. Vanzant shines and Winfrey saw her luster from the get-go, but it is only now that Vanzant is ready to – as we say in aware circles – ‘hold’ her own powerful light.
Which brings me back to what has been born of all that -- Iyanla, Fix My Life.
I have never seen Basketball Wives and don’t plan to, but the fly-off-the-handle clips woven through the interview give the viewer an idea of what Vanzant is dealing with in Lozada. It is my fervent hope that fans of the VH1 show caught up in its twists and gossip can pull back and see this as more than a chance to pass judgment on Lozada.
I’ve got a bigger lens on this. Vanzant, part therapist, part life coach, could be talking to any number of people – sadly, mostly women – who grace our TVs on reality shows and behave like petty, materialistic, narcissistic, backstabbing shrews fueled by anger and a sense of entitlement. She’s got them all on the couch, so to speak, and she is going in for the gutsy, often pointed truth.
Where did you learn how to behave like this? Do you even see it as unhealthy and unacceptable? Have you any idea how far you’ve strayed from meaningful living?
On Twitter, a viewer named @HeatherShelton wrote to @Oprah: “This show is def provoking me to do some self reflection. This is what television is supposed to do, aspire to do.”
Yes, yes and yes.
This is what ‘reality’ television can be. It’s what it should be. Reaching for our best selves. Focusing on what can make our lives meaningful. Learning from others’ mistakes because they are so often our own. Having hard conversations.
Yes, drill in hand, on a quest for truth, Vanzant has got this.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.