Who is Iyanla Vanzant? Fighting abuse, selling books outside churches to winning hearts, meet the fiery life coach
Iyanla Vanzant aka Rhonda Harris is nothing short of a real-life wonder woman. By now we have gotten used to seeing her on the show 'Iyanla: Fix my Life', where she doles out compelling life advice and is a successful inspiration speaker. But prior to enjoying all these accomplishments, Iyanla had to go through a lot of hardships and losses, which finally paved the way to her sweet success today.
Iyanla, who was born as Rhonda Harris, was the daughter of Horace Harris and his mistress Sarah Jefferson. When Rhonda was just two-years-old, she lost her mother to cancer. Following the death of her mother, she was sent to her paternal relatives for care since her father was largely absent from her life. At her relatives' place, she experienced abuse regularly. At the age of nine, she was raped by one of her relatives. At the age of 16, she had her first child, Gemmia, followed by two other children. She later got married to Charles Vanzant. Unfortunately, Charles turned out to be an abusive husband.
On an episode of 'Fox my Life', Iyanla spoke about how abuse was normal in her life because she grew up in an abusive household. So, when her first husband frequently abused her, she never spoke up. In the same episode, she also recounted an incident when her husband was in such a fury that in order to defend herself she stabbed him with a knife, and fled away with her three children.
Life was never easy for Iyanla. But she worked extremely hard to make it better. After getting out of her toxic marriage, she enrolled in Medgar Evers College in New York and got a degree in public administration. Eventually, she got a law degree and worked as a public defender in Philadelphia. But she wasn't happy with her life, so she quit her job and began working on her book 'Tapping the Power Within: A Path to Self-Empowerment for Black Women'. She initially sold her book for $5 outside churches, before landing a publishing deal. She went on to write 15 books, of which eight landed on the New York Times bestsellers' list.
When Oprah Winfrey heard her on a radio show, she immediately roped in Iyanla to appear on her talk show. Iyanla went on to appear 20 times on Oprah's show, before eventually landing her own talk show. Unfortunately, the show didn't do well and was canceled after just one season. Iyanla blamed Oprah for her failure, which soured the relationship between them. In the years that followed, Iyanla faced even more hardships. Her daughter Gemmia died from cancer and her second husband Adeyemi Bandele filed for divorce from her. At the brink of bankruptcy, homelessness and suicidal depression, she wrote a book based on her experiences titled 'Peace from Broken Pieces'. This book became an instant bestseller and also helped mend Iyanla and Oprah's friendship. Finally, things began looking up for Iyanla again when she landed the show 'Iyanla: Fix my Life' on OWN Network.
Iyanla was named one of the 100 most influential women in the US in 2013 by Women's Day magazine. In 2014, Ebony magazine listed her as one of the 100 most influential African Americans. In 2012, Watkins Mind B0dy Spirit Magazine named her as one of the 100 most spiritually influential living people.
You can catch Iyanla on her latest show 'Fear Nor with Iyanla Vanzant' on OWN. On the show, Iyanla, 66, will offer her guidance on how to cope with the ongoing pandemic. Guests like Oprah Winfrey, gospel singer Bebe Winans and financial guru Tiffany Aliche too will feature on the show.