There’s a short clip making the rounds on the interwebs about reality-TV personality Hazel-E getting “schooled” by Iyanla Vanzant, self-proclaimed life fixer, on Vanzant’s television show, Iyanla: Fix My Life.
During the episode titled, “Broken Reality: Hazel-E,” Vanzant brought the Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood player (born Arica Adams) into her “legacy room,” a space in Vanzant’s home where iconic black women, including entertainers like Ruby Dee, Hattie McDaniel and Cicely Tyson, line the walls.
The short clip revealed that Hazel didn’t know who Septima Clark or Pearl Bailey was; probably not Sojourner Truth, either. But in her defense (did I just say that?), Hazel isn’t the only black adult who doesn’t know who many of women on the wall are—a shame as much of our education system as of ourselves as a community.
“These black women of all shades and hues … do you know what those women had to do so you could even be on television—that’s your foundation!” Vanzant roars at Hazel.
But the most compelling footage comes when Vanzant asks Hazel to read her lyrics to the photo of Dorothy Dandridge.
“Pop my butt, pop, pop, pop my butt, pop my butt,” reads Hazel in a monotone. Vanzant then booms, pointing to a photo in the room of Harriet Tubman. “Do you know what ‘pop my butt’ meant to Harriet Tubman?! It meant a whip! It meant a whip to her!”
Folks online had a field day with it, swapping out Hazel’s lyrics with those of other entertainers.
All jokes aside, Oprah Winfrey’s website, owned by the same network that airs Iyanla: Fix My Life, noted that “there’s another layer to Miss Hazel’s pain.”
Later in the episode, Hazel recounts that she was sexually molested when two older women forced her into a “sexual encounter” with another little girl when she was 5 years old.
Hazel says that she was forced into silence by her mother.
“That’s, once again, something I wasn’t supposed to talk about,” she says. “She’s very conservative in her way of thinking. She, I feel like, wanted to maintain an image.”
And then Vanzant, who is nobody’s sexual-trauma therapist, supposedly brings Hazel’s behavior home, telling the Los Angeles-raised rapper to admit that she herself is the same way.
“Say, ‘Just like me,’” Vanzant instructs. “So do you.”
Recently, Candice Benbow, creator of the Lemonade syllabus and red-lipstick theologian, wrote a compelling piece on why she is no longer a fan of Vanzant’s show, but conceded that her books were an instrument of her and her mother’s healing:
I watched Iyanla yell at and become combative toward sisters who came to her for healing. I gasped when she told Geneva that she was “hoeing”, after Geneva confessed that her sister’s boyfriend raped and coerced her into having sex as a teenager. I was in shock when she called Neffe a “nasty bitch” and “vile guttersnipe right up out the hood.” I even tried to make it through the season of the “Angry Black Woman” healing house but couldn’t do it without having a visceral reaction to the way she talked to sisters. So, I just stopped watching completely. The only way I saw the season 8 premiere, featuring Kamiyah Mobley, was because a friend asked me to watch it.
I tend to agree here. Given the trauma that most black women have faced in their lifetimes, a little tenderness—and some laughter, and perhaps therapy—seems infinitely more effective than yelled insults.