Flashback Friday – Out The Bag: Iyanla Vanzant’s Real Name, Past Identity


A few months ago we took a look at a part of  "Fix My Life" extraordinaire Iyanla Vanzant's life that had not been much discussed - her past identity. We're taking a glance back at what Iyanla had to say about her name change and what it means to have a breakthrough in one's life.

The woman many of us have watched fix others' lives, explains how she fixed her own. Iyanla Vanzant’s past could be found in her bestselling books from 2000's Yesterday I Cried to 2012's Peace From Broken Pieces, but recently Vanzant sat down to tell us about Rhonda Harris.

Rhonda Harris is the only identity Vanzant had pre-book deals or Oprah shows. Harris is the woman Vanzant fought to overcome and eventually decided, needed to be buried. Rhonda became Iyanla in her late 20s, inventing a new identity for herself.

“I had to bury her, not in the ground hating her, diminishing her but bury her – you don’t get to run this anymore,” Iyanla told Oprah.

During Oprah for OWN’s “Super Soul Sunday,” Iyanla says Rhonda was a resourceful, broken, wounded, sorrowful soul. The renaming happened as a way to let her old self go, however Iyanla credits her tarnished past with helping to shape the survivor she is today.

“She is the reason I am sitting here,” Vanzant said.

The more Iyanla Vanzant came to the realization that Rhonda “no longer fit” who she was becoming, she decided it was time for a rebirth – one that would be the most important in her spiritual journey.

"I realized that the life that I was living was not the truth of who I was," said Iyanla.

Rhonda lived a life of abuse, poverty, neglect and much more pain. Even as Iyanla grew, she realized that she was still living like Rhonda.

"There's no way that I came out of the projects, off welfare, to go to college and law school , and to end up in a house with no furniture with my children eating fast food off the floor," she says. "I had to go through that to get here, but when I was there, I had to look at that and say, 'This need not be.'"

Iyanla stated Rhonda believed she was "bad" and "wrong in God’s sight," it wasn't until she emerged as Iyanla that she accepted this belief as untrue.

Rhonda received her second name, Iyanla, from her godfather. Iyanla means “Great Mother.”

“Mother is teacher – and teaching is my life’s purpose,” says Iyanla.

As Iyanla came into her own self-worth and new identity, she began to embark on the spiritual journey that led her to Oprah's chair and many of our lives.

Ladies, what do you think of Iyanla's name change? Have you ever considered changing your name?


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  • mimi

    I think Rhonda aka ‘Iyanla’ needs to stop talking in third person which is a sign of either schizophrenia or someone who doesnt want to talk responsibility for actions their ‘other being’ as made.

    • RHONYC

      *snort* 😀

  • wakeupcall

    thank you mini


    she look like the offspring of Celie from the Color Purple & Nina Simone. :)

    • lilkunta

      I too thought of whoopi when I saw her.

  • Milky me

    I luv her

  • I am who you want me to be.

    I agree with her. Sometimes you have to bury who you use to be. I changed my name for similar reasons.

  • At A Crossroads

    This is what I’m dealing with right now. I’m on the cusp of change and facing my demons. It is hard hard hard but I want a different life for myself and I want to still acknowledge yet move away from the person I used to be. I want to bury her and close that chapter.

    • WeFallDown

      I pray it all works out for you…know that we all fall short in HIS eyes and you don’t have to go through a name change to be changed spiritually. Ask for forgiveness with a sincere heart and stay obedient and the rest will fall in place. Stay prayed up & blessings unto you

      • At A Crossroads

        Thank you for this comment.

        • Whitty Huton Wuld Toor AKA DD

          I agree with WeFallDown just put your trust in him and he will lead you in the right path. I pray that everything works out for you.

          • At A Crossroads

            Thank you, as well.

          • Whitty Huton Wuld Toor AKA DD

            E-Hugs :-). Need encouraging words I’m here.

  • Mocha

    0:35…TOTAL CELIE!

  • Tawnymarie

    She had a Breakthrough, if that’s how it came to her, so be it.

    • GreenDreams



    Coo coo

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  • KY

    There has been several times I wanted to change my name it is something I am still deciding on.