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Such a Painful Black Girl Reunion: Oprah and Iyanla

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Such a Painful Black Girl Reunion: Oprah and Iyanla

As a middle school student, I remember reading Iyanla Vanzant’s One Day My Soul Just Opened Up and thinking who is this black woman to write such a book about spiritual recovery that did not mention Jesus Christ as the penultimate factor in spiritual rejuvenation. Yes, back then I was a burgeoning Christian fundamentalist who enjoyed reading big girl books that I was not suppose to read including Terri McMillan’s How Stellar Got Her Groove Back and T.D. Jakes’ Woman Thou Art Loosed. So, now to watch Iyanla on Oprah tell her story of decline made me think about what it means for Black women to tell each other the “cold” truth in a world that in some very real ways are bent on our mental, spiritual, and physical demise or at the bare minimal our collective demoralization.

I tell you, watching Oprah and Iyanla go back and forth was quite painful in some ways. It was painful to see two Black women rehash their emotional and profoundly spiritual drama publicly. It was painful to see Iyanla continuously deny that she sought to force Oprah’s hand. It was painful to see Oprah say “I forgive you,” but yet pursue a small admission of guilt. It was painful to see Iyanla admit she has no healthcare after making millions of dollars. It was painful to see the exchange of Sistah girl belly laughs between the two of them on camera only to know that they have not spoken in many years. Indeed, it was a painful show.

And, for me I am trying to wrap my mind around why I found the show to be so piercing. Perhaps, it has something to do with my own reconciliation process with a close girlfriend. Or, perhaps, it has something to do with the countless media examples of Black women literally and figuratively fighting with each other. From Nene and Phaedra on Atlanta Housewives to Evelyn and Tami on Basketball Wives to Carolyn Mosley Braun and Patricia Watkins’ mayoral brawl, we see black women tearing into each other. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is healthy to establish, at times, very firm boundaries with your sisterfriends, however, the level in which we fight each other and the media’s coverage and encouragement of it is problematic.

Of course, some would say why am I lamenting over a show that benefited both Oprah and Iyanla—Oprah got ratings and Iyanla’s new book was featured . . . and we know what happens when Lady O features a book . . . it’s a New York Times Best Seller. And, my response, would simply be because even if it was about ratings and selling books, it still struck a chord about the struggle to grow in our relationships as sisterfriends when we are in many ways still “works in progress” ourselves. Meaning, we like Iyanla and even Oprah have a great propensity to act out our childhood traumas with our close friends because we are in the process of healing. To say the least, the show made me wince and at times weep especially for Iyanla who publicly admitted her fall from grace, the loss of her daughter, the loss of her fortune, the loss of her husband, and the loss of her friend/colleague, Oprah Winfrey.

Yep, all in all, watching both Oprah and Iyanla go back and forth against this backdrop was painful to watch. But, perhaps, I am being a bit of a drama queen. What did you think of the show? How did it make you feel?