Rev. Dr. Iyanla (pronounced E-Yan-La) Vanzant’s story reads like an epic adventure filled with near misses, struggle, strength, courage and triumph! From her life’s experiences she has uncovered her life’s purpose, discovered the power that lies within and recovered her authentic self Iyanla Vanzant has emerged as a living testament to the value in life’s valleys and the power of acting on faith. The best part is, she teaches what she has learned.
Born in Brooklyn, New York in the back of a taxi cab to an alcoholic mother, Iyanla was a child of an extra martial affair. When Iyanla was two-years-old her mother succumbed to breast cancer. This left Iyanla and her older brother to be raised by father, who left his children in the care of a series a relatives, including an uncle who raped her at the tender age of nine. Although Iyanla knew her father, he was often not present physically and emotionally unavailable. By age 16, she was a teenage mother. By age 21 she had three children and a physically abusive husband. 9 years, two suicide attempts and many beatings later, Iyanla and her three children made their early morning escape into an unknown future; a future where she would raise her three children alone. Being a single mother, she sustained her family for several years on public assistance. Iyanla was inspired by a sign on the bus to change her life by attending Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York. Three years later she graduated Summa Cum Laude and entered the City University of New York Law School at Queens College. Her brilliant oratory skills caught the attention of the Philadelphia Public Defender’s office who offered her a job without a formal interview. Three years into her practice, Iyanla knew she had made the wrong choice for her life and left her position.
Like everyone else, Iyanla readily admits that she too has had long periods of confusion. Unlike many, however, she uses her difficult times to usher her into a new state of being. After leaving her prominent position as an attorney, Iyanla eventually found herself unemployed, sleeping on a sofa in a friend’s basement with her pregnant 16 year-old daughter. A friend invited her to teach a class for women who were being trained to transition from welfare to work. Understanding their predicament very well, Iyanla took her new job seriously. She produced a workbook for the class. In 1988, that workbook became her first published work, Tapping The Power Within: A Path To Self Empowerment For Black Women. The 20th. Anniversary edition of this book was published in 2008. (Smiley Books/Hay House). Her second work, Acts of Faith: Daily Meditations For People of Color, crossed the racial divide to become a favorite companion for Tipper Gore, wife of then Vice President Al Gore. 13 publications and 5 New York Times Best Sellers were not a part of Iyanla’s plans. Then again, the best laid plan tend to go awry.
Iyanla has received numerous awards and accolades for the power and impact of her work. She received She is hailed as one of Halle Berry’s five “Sheros” (Glamour Magazine 2006); one of the country’s most influential African Americans (Ebony Magazine 2004); among the country’s most 100 Influential Women (Women’s Day Magazine 2003); one of the “most dynamic speakers in the United States” (Emerge Magazine 2000). She is a woman of passion, clear vision and purpose.
Dr. Vanzant travels globally delivering her teachings and message of hope to thousands. A much sought after guest for prime time radio shows, her voice is a staple on The Tom Joyner Morning Show (Radio One); The Tavis Smiley Show (NPR); The Michael Baisden Show (ABC); and Tell Me More with Michel Martin (NPR). She has appeared as a host Life Coach on the NBC Daytime Drama, Starting Over (2004-2006); Iyanla, her own daytime talk show (2001-2002) produced by Barbara Walters and Billy Getty. She was also a recurring guest on Oprah (1998-1999) as part of the Change Your Life Faculty.
As Founder and Director of Inner Visions Institute of Spiritual Development, Iyanla shares her knowledge of Universal Principle and Law, Eastern and Western spiritual/religious traditions/teachings, and the truth of Unconditional Love to motivate others to create a better life, a better community and a better world! She spends most of her time now training Life Coaches and Ministers and conducting a series of community forums through Inner Visions.