With ‘Fear Not,’ Vanzant helps viewers navigate a scary and confusing new world

NADINE MATTHEWS | 5/28/2020, midnight
“I was happy being braless and late-night snacking,” joked life coach, author, speaker, and talk show host Iyanla Vanzant to ...
Iyanla Vanzant OWN/Oprah Winfrey Network photo

“I was happy being braless and late-night snacking,” joked life coach, author, speaker, and talk show host Iyanla Vanzant to a group of journalists at a recent virtual roundtable.

The reason for the occasion was an introduction to her newest OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) series “Fear Not.” Vanzant revealed the new show was conceived after she received a surprise call from her boss Oprah Winfrey to talk about how the world was responding to the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine living.

Winfrey, said Vanzant, “really felt that it was a time when we had an opportunity to support people because so many are having the same concerns and issues, particularly when you look in the communities of color.”

“Fear Not” debuted on Saturday, May 16 with guests Oprah Winfrey and Bebe Winans. Vanzant is an OWN veteran, where she also hosts the long-running “Iyanla: Fix My Life,” counseling individuals and families working through emotional and psychological issues. Since the start of the lockdown, she has also been regularly appearing on Facebook, offering guidance and encouragement through the coronavirus crisis.

The show is shot from Vanzant’s home studio, which she fashioned from a storage room when she moved into her home seven years ago. The scaled-down “crew” consists of herself, her son, and her manager. “Fear Not,” explained Vanzant, explores “mind, body, spirit, and our emotional selves.”

In order to get broader perspectives on the zeitgeist, guests will be both ordinary, everyday people as well as public personas. “We’re looking at specific aspects of fear,” elaborated Vanzant. “Every show, we have a private person who talks about their experience and then a public person who also talks about their experience or addresses the issue in some way.”

Thorny issues in marriages and between parents and children or siblings can simmer beneath the surface of busy lives. When forced to deal with each other in a confined space for an extended period of time, as has happened during stay-at-home orders, those issues can bubble over. The stress can overwhelm on both an individual level and a communal level. Said Vanzant who revealed that she has stopped her mortgage and car payments since the pandemic hit, “The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t brought anything forward that wasn’t already there. Shaky relationships just got shakier. Financial issues and personal challenges just became more apparent because we had to sit in the stuff that we usually run from.”

Vanzant suggested that the internet had become a common hiding place for most. “We’re on social media or on dating sites.”

Ironically, Vanzant pointed out, the internet is where people had gotten into the habit of going to vent negative energy, but it’s now being used to keep people socializing during the shutdown. “These platforms,” she declared, “were being used to cuss people, to judge people, to tear people down. All manner of lies and bad behavior has gone on. Now this has become the source of our connection.”

Crucial for getting through such a stressful time, she says, a spiritual practice is something that she has been preaching for years and will talk about again in “Fear Not.” “You need a daily spiritual practice. If you don’t call it spiritual, call it the internal, call it quiet time, call it stillness. Call it what you want to call it, but a practice that gets you centered and focused on what really matters to you for the day.”