It should be surprising to no one that the person behind a site called The Cynical Ones isn’t going out of their way to wobble on over to the hear the wisdom of someone who reminds me of that mean, older lady on the block who takes discipline way too seriously and acts like a sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s can treat knife wounds.
That’s not to say that Iyanla and her Oda Mae Brown meets Mama Odie hustle can’t serve any purpose. I guess it’s effective in the case of someone like Evelyn Lozada, who essentially needed some sassier woman to offer her the verbal equivalent of cutting a switch from a tree and taking her to task. So yeah it can work if you’re into that sort of thing.
However, that style of self-help shouldn’t be used in the case of someone with legitimate mental health issues. As soon as I heard about Maia Campbell signing up for an episode of Iyanla, Fix My Life, I asked on Twitter, “Isn’t Maia Campbell bipolar? As it relates to fixing her life shouldn’t she lean more Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman less Mama Odie?” I was half-joking then, but after watching clips from Maia’s appearance now I’m just bothered.
Here Iyanla is telling Maia to “own her stuff,” but when you’re bipolar you might not necessarily be able to own “your stuff” without proper diagnosis and subsequent treatment. As in, Iyanla, Maia isn’t just some drugged up celebrity who can’t own up to her transgressions; this is a person who may not conceivably be able to understand her actions to the degree in which you feel she ought to. Therefore, she needn’t be chided on camera. Maia may have signed up for this own her own accord, but that’s because she used to be fame and continues to covet it. That’s not Iyanla or her producers’ fault and they’re not necessarily wrong for booking her, but this feels exploitative all the same. Iyanla just doesn’t seem qualified to handle that severe a mental health issue.
And for the record, it makes me cringe to hear Iyanla assail someone for not owning up to their mistakes.
A few months ago I asked on the site, “Why would I want Iyanla Vanzant to fix my life when Oprah had to fix hers twice?” To put it more pointedly, I watched Iyanla’s on air reunion with Oprah and I was mystified by how she refused to acknowledge her actions in her downfall. She babbled a bunch of pseudo psychological nonsense as Oprah repeatedly dragged her by the unshaped up hairs on her head back to reality. That’s what I meant behind that quip: Who is she to be getting people together when she’s on OWN largely due to being a means to an end i.e. Oprah building her network off the backs of Black women?
Earlier today I saw someone tweet the following quote from Iyanla: “I went to law school not to study law, but to train my mind.”
Ma’am, what? That sounds like some bullshit you say in a dark room full of 20-somethings into snapping their fingers at the slightest instance of something seemingly profound (overeager beavers, let it happen naturally). That’s that shit I don’t like and why I’d rather rock with someone with depth and a medical degree. Hell, I’d rather take a teaspoon of ‘Tussin for my mental health treatment than turn to her.
I wish the best for Maia, but I sure hope someone close to her finds her a real therapist because based on the clips I’ve seen, Mama Odie ought to be selling Maia seem incense or a brown sugar scented candle and nothing else.