Iyanla Vanzant On Why She Changed Her Name: “I had to bury her”

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By Barry Burch Jr.

There are a countless number of celebrities who bare a name other than the one they were given at birth. It truly has become the norm. And Iyanla Vanzant, who appeared regularly on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” is no different. Prior to her role as an inspirational figure with a no-nonsense approach to life and long before her series on OWN, Iyanla Vanzant was actually Rhonda Harris.

Vanzant made the decision to change her birth name while in her late 20s, as reported by The Huffington Post. And when she did, it was not only about changing her name; it was, too, about changing her entire identity.

In an interview with Oprah for OWN’s “Super Soul Sunday,” the best-selling author and spiritual leader explains that as Harris, she was a resourceful, broken, wounded, sorrowful soul. However, she does not deny that had it not been for the experiences endured as Harris, she would not be the strong Iyanla Vanzant that today, motivates so many into action.

“Had it not been for [Rhonda] — that aspect of me — I would have never survived the abuse, the abandonment, the rejection,” explained Vanzant. “Rhonda Harris was with me when my father beat the skin off my back. She was there when my grandmother abused me, when my uncle raped me, when my brother abandoned me. She was there when I got pregnant at 14. She was there when I got on the subway in New York to ride to Manhattan to identify my dead child’s body… She was there. She was there when nobody else was there.”

Over time, Vanzant said she was able to arrive at the conclusion that her name, Rhonda, simply “no longer fit” the person she was. The decision was then made to totally start over. A new name would be symbolic, she thought.

“I had to bury her. Not in the ground, hating her, hiding her, diminishing her, but bury her,” said Vanzant. “I realized that the life that I was living was not the truth of who I was.”

Despite having lived a tough life, Vanzant said she came to the realization that she did not deserve the bad things that were happening to her and she did not have to accept them.

“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.'”

It took a little while, but once Vanzant was able to understand her self-worth, she began to transform into the person she believes she was always destined to be.

Barry is a student of life. Other than writing, he enjoys mathematics and philosophy. Reach him @