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The R Spot with Iyanla

When Rev. Dr. Iyanla Vanzant’s hit show Iyanla Fix My Life, which ran from 2012-2021, stopped airing on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, we must admit that we were more than a little disheartened. We had grown to love, revere, and respect the famed spiritual life coach and to rely on her sage advice from her years as a go-to relationship, life, and spirituality expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show (1986-2011). Iyanla, of course, also made appearances in Oprah’s Lifeclass and Super Soul Sunday.

To say that Iyanla gives it to you straight, no chaser, is an understatement. Indeed, she has the uncanny ability to listen to a person and to distinguish between the words they are saying and the story that they have created which has, in many cases, become an emotional and psychological burden. Although often bold and always direct, Iyanla’s hard truths are exactly the “cold water in the face” counsel that we need to hear and it is always delivered with love, compassion, and often humour. Iyanla is straight up wise, and boy is that an underrated quality these days! She is also honest, often brutally so, with an incisive intellect, uncanny insight, and instincts honed from years of difficult experiences and “doing the work” herself, that has allowed her to share her hard-earned wisdom. Indeed, Iyanla is famous for her ability to zero in on the lies and half-truths that we feed ourselves; the things that keep us stuck in our “stories,” and unable to fulfill the promise of our unique gifts.

Well, never fear, we have great news! This New York Times best-selling author of must-read books like In the Meantime: Finding Yourself and the Love you Want (1998) and One Day My Soul just Opened up (1998) is back with a powerful podcast, The R Spot with Iyanla, where she engages with and supports real people who call in to benefit from her one-on-one guidance. By the way, Iyanla’s podcast is produced by Shondaland Audio – yes, the Shondaland of media mogul Shonda Rhimes who has brought us smash TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, How to get away with Murder, Station 19, and Bridgerton.

The R, by the way, stands for relationship and Iyanla dives into the complexities, intricacies, secrets, untruths, turmoil, and temptations across all types of human interactions and, as she says, “wahala,” a Yoruba word for suffering. Launched in 2022, the episodes have covered a range of compelling issues and topics including family dysfunction, toxic romantic relationships, sexual infidelity, and how we inevitably seek out partners who reflect back to us precisely what we think of ourselves. Yah, we do! As Iyanla empathically declares in one episode, the answer to the question “is it them or is it you?” is, “it’s you, baby!”

Some of her most insightful and powerful conversations have been with black men in explorations of manhood and often taboo topics like vulnerability and emotional expression, which is all about self-awareness, and as she proclaims, possessing a vocabulary to articulate the dimensions and texture of what you are feeling. We can’t overstate how complex the issue of manhood is for black males, given that our enslaved male ancestors suffered gender- and sex-specific violence and innumerable indignities throughout four-hundred years of Transatlantic Slavery which were designed to deny them access to manhood. Indeed, to be chattel – as our ancestors were defined under the law – was to be the opposite of a man.

Wisely, Iyanla also calls both men and women to honestly confront our nasty behaviours in the ways we too often self-sabotage and undermine the people we claim to love by making them wrong when their desires and behaviours do not align with our own or when then can’t or won’t fulfill all of our needs; basically, when we refuse to acknowledge who the person we have chosen to be in relationship with is, regardless of how many times they have shown us. In a particularly insightful episode, she advises a black male caller that the rejection of his wives in two failed marriages was about them and not him since he had chosen women who wanted him for what he had and not who he was. But as Iyanla also made clear, of course the breakdown was also about him because “you thought you were what you do, not who you are”. Her profound advice for him going forward? If you vibrate in the sadness, you will repeat the same mistakes.

Being the evolved and enlightened elder that she is, Iyanla also generously shares the podcast stage with other, often younger experts, allowing them to shine and creating wonderful, poignant conversations often across sex and generational lines. Interviews like her two-parter with Ace Metaphor, are some of the most powerful, especially for heterosexual women looking for insights into the hearts and minds of the black men they love. Iyanla’s joyful and direct brand of truth-telling is a blessing for those of us looking for support in our emotional and spiritual journeys.