Iyanla Vazant, on her popular show "Iyanla Fix My Life" on OWN this Saturday, gives former reality star Sheree Whitfield and her ex-husband and Falcon Bob a serious dose of reality about their broken relationship and why there is so much rancor between them.
Can Iyanla really fix this?
Over four seasons on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," Whifield primarily showed off her daffy, diva-like self. To many viewers, she came across as fake and calculating on screen. It seemed she built up an artifice to cover up inner pain and turmoil. She tried to break into fashion and acting, to no avail. And efforts to find a new man were for naught on screen at least.
Last year, while the other women on "Housewives" were getting married, having kids, expanding their media empires, Sheree was stuck in neutral. So Bravo dropped her from the show.
In an interview to promote the episode, Iyanla said Bob was more willing to see his own faults and accept her critiques. Sheree "was very conscious and aware of her image and reputation she had created on the Atlanta Housewives," Iyanla told me. " So it was more difficult for her to be as open and free about her thoughts and feelings than it was for Bob, who we have never seen."
She also felt Sheree lacked vision.
"She has the energy of a victim," Iyanla said. "She's someone who reacts to life rather than someone who responds to life and creates life. There are hundreds of thousands of women like that. It's classic to me."
On "Iyanla Fix My Life," Sheree said she wanted a happy marriage and a certain type of husband. Bob was not that person but in a moment of vulnerability, she tearfully told Iyanla she hoped at one time long ago that he would change. He didn't.
"I never had anybody to talk to," Sheree said. "I always had to pretend and keep a smile on my face. It was a show. We pretended. I pretended we were happy. I was happy. I did that."
Iyanla challenged Sheree about "Chateau Sheree," the massive home she has been building for more than a year in Atlanta but remains unfinished. Sheree kept insisting it was for her kids. But Iyanla didn't buy it. "That ain't about your kids," Iyanla said. "That's about you."
The kids, Iyanla said, just want a place to be secure and happy. A massive edifice doesn't guarantee that.
"You need to accept you're angry and bitter," Iyanla said.
"No, I'm not," Sheree said. Her wall then went up.
The next day, Sheree was still upset. "I felt like I was being attacked," she told Iyanla. "It was very hurtful... I didn't feel like questions about whether or not my finances were up to par had anything to do with me as a parent or being a good person."
Iyanla also confronted Bob about his issues. He more or less admitted he was never fully committed to the marriage, that he got Sheree pregnant early and just kept going from there.
He felt during the divorce, she had a vendetta against him, that she dictates how or when he sees the kids, that she maligned him as a deadbeat dad and worse. (He admitted to not paying child support but he justified it by saying she could handle it herself.)
Iyanla cut to the chase: "It was a woman you slept with, impregnated and married to soothe your conscience. She didn't have a place in your heart... She knew that."
"I agree," Bob said.
He acknowledged he has failed as a father. He admitted he struggled in the NFL and then took it out on his son. But he genuinely wants to spend more time with his kids and he felt Sheree has been more a hindrance than a help.
Iyanla did bring them together to talk but honestly, it did not go well. Still, it's worth seeing if you followed this soap opera on the Bravo show.
An indication of how things ultimately played out: Sheree refused to follow up with Iyanla after the show taped. Bob told First and Life, an online radio show, that he felt Iyanla was helpful though there is still no love (or even like) between the two.
Here's a teaser of Sheree talking to Iyanla at "Chateau Sheree."
I also asked Iyanla why she thinks her show has done so well. (Last week's episode with DMX drew 1.8 million viewers.)
"The vision of 'Iyanla Fix My Life' is in alignment with the mission of OWN," Iyanla said. "That's what speaks for the success. There's a lot of reality TV. People watch, walking away feeling excited, angry or disgusted. We try to give people lessons they can use in their lives. We take reality to another level. Not just the dysfunction but we serve these people, not just provide entertainment."
Iyanla has been a life coach for 19 years and a minister for 28 years, she said. She spends 24 to 48 hours with each person or couple to try to "fix" their life. "We are trying to restore people," she said. "Restore their hearts and minds and trying to give them a sense of renewal. My goal is to realize their vision, clearing out whatever is in the way of manifesting their vision."
"Iyanla Fix My Life," 9 p.m. Saturday, OWN