“What I have learned from all of the difficulties in my own life is that human beings have very thick skin. I call that skin, spirit, our Highest Most Powerful self. Spirit is the key to everything we desire. It is our weather-proofing, our Teflon, our line of credit that assures if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day; there will be a miraculous payoff.” — Iyanla Vanzant

Iyanla Vanzant

Iyanla Vanzant was born in Brooklyn New York as Ronda Eva Harris. She is an inspirational speaker, New Thought spiritual life counsellor, award-winning author of five New York Times best-sellers, lawyer, ordained minister and television personality (used to be a frequent guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show) currently residing in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, United States.

In the year 2000, she was named one of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans by Ebony magazine which said that “Her books, lectures and television appearances have made her a multimedia high priestess of healthy relationships.” Her books include Acts of Faith, One Day My Soul Just Opened Up, Value in the Valley,  Faith in the Valley, and In the Meantime.

She is an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and facilitates workshops nationally with a mission to assist in the empowerment of men and women.

Iyanla Vanzant - A great inspirational speaker

Praised by Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley as “an inspiration to all women,” her stories of personal struggle and victory as a battered wife and teenage welfare mother have touched millions. In building a life of transformation on the foundation of her troubled past, she has become a standard bearer for the power of forgiveness and love to heal. She has been awarded an “Oni” by the International Congress of Black Women as one of the nation’s unsung heroes.

Mother on Reinvention

In 1998, she served as the national spokesperson of Literacy Volunteers of America. In 1999, she was listed among the 100 Most Influential African Americans by Ebony magazine, and her debut spoken word album hit the Billboard Gospel Chart at Number 1. She has been awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree from the City University of New York and an honorary doctor of divinity degree from the Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia.

Iyanla Vanzant once stood in the bedroom of her then recently deceased daughter with a pink, pearl-handled pistol in one hand and prescription pills in the other; mulling over the decision as to the “best” way to finally end the pain.

Nevertheless, Iyanla Vanzant is still alive and has a testimony to share.

From leaving The Oprah Winfrey Show to the cancellation of her own television program; the downward spiral didn’t crater with the death of her daughter at the age of 31 to a rare form of colon cancer — on Christmas Day, no less.

Iyanla remarked, “watching them put my daughter in a box and throw dirt on her let me know I could deal with anything.” The reality though was that things were to get far worse for far longer before they would get better. There was still an unexpected divorce (by way of email), loss of her house and tremendous trouble with the IRS still on the way. The fact that neither the pink, pearl-handled pistol nor the prescription pills won out is nothing short of amazing.

Iyanla Vanzant

It’s one thing to read the book of Job; it’s another to live it.

In her new book, Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through, Vanzant displays the scars of her life with an authoritative honesty, in the hopes of helping someone who might travel a path similar to hers, hurting unceasingly and hoping for help seemingly never on its way.

Broken Pieces

Iyanla Vanzant is alive and well; today her testimony might bring tears to your eyes while also forcing you to question the depth and resolve of your own faith and relationship with the Lord. At the same time, she offers neither an excuse nor appeal for pity on her behalf.

Iyanla in her book, tells the truth about the moments of her life leading up until now, from the death of her mother, being raped by her uncle and the pathologies set in motion by both.

She has literally touched the lives of countless people. Below are some of the feedbacks that people have left on her YouTube videos:

My God… so enlightening. It is so important to be clear in life on “who? you are”. If not, people will tell YOU who YOU are and you? will find yourself going down a path of someone’s else’s vision and not your own….I needed this…

So very powerful as always! Thank you for continuing to offer transparency and what seems like unfiltered insight? into life. Much? appreciated!

I cried from 0:11!!! OMGOODNESS!! Let me testify!!! I AM? ETERNALLY GRATEFUL? FOR THE LIFE LINE Iyanla carries!!!

Powerful… and?? I still heal! Thank you.

An amazing woman! Thank? you for being you!?

You have been my Spiritual God Mother every since I read, “One Day My Soul Just Opened Up”. Your spirit? has followed me since then. Thank you Great Mother. Eye love you.

Real? talk!!! Thank you for simply being real, human, honest.

Thank? you for your strength,it out shines so much pain in the world and within all.

Watch and listen to Iyanla’s messages in the five-part YouTube videos and be touched, be inspired, and hopefully be changed!

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Oprah Winfrey has been teasing about a big family secret that she would reveal on her show yesterday, and she did not disappoint: Oprah introduced her heretofore-unknown half-sister, Patricia.

Oprah and her sister Patricia

Welcoming single mother of two Patricia to an emotional reunion on her daytime talk show, Winfrey said her mother Vernita Lee gave birth to a sister in 1963 when Oprah was 9 and kept the birth a secret, giving the baby up for adoption.

“Imagine my shock just a few months ago, at the end of October, when I found out I have another sister living just 90 minutes away,” Winfrey said.

“For the most part my life has been an open book and on the show I think I’ve seen about everything. And I thought nothing could surprise me anymore, but let me tell you I was wrong,” she told viewers.

Patricia, whose last name was not revealed, said she had been raised in foster homes since age 7.

Patricia said she had tried years ago to learn the identity of the woman who gave her up for adoption, and only started to try again a few years ago at the insistence of her two adult children, who also appeared on Monday’s show.

Patricia said she feared her search would be fruitless after she got a telephone call from the state adoption agency, which reported that her birth mother had been contacted and did not wish to meet her.

But, coincidentally, on the local news that day, she saw a story about Winfrey’s mother, who described how two of her children had died. Those details matched information Patricia had seen in adoption papers, which indicated she had two sisters and a brother, and that only the older sister was alive.

Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, also disclosed that one of the deceased children was named Patricia.

“The hairs on the back of my neck stood up,” Patricia said. “Because I knew one of my siblings and I shared the same name.”

Later, she found more details that matched, including the fact that Winfrey was born in 1954, the same year as the woman Patricia knew was her surviving sibling.

Patricia said she first learned she was Winfrey’s half sister in 2007, but kept it a secret because she knew it would create a media frenzy.

“She never once thought to sell the story,” Winfrey said, describing how she felt betrayed by other relatives who sought publicity.

Winfrey recalled how her other sister revealed to the press years ago that Winfrey had become pregnant at 14 and had had a baby when she was a teenager. The baby, Winfrey has said, died shortly after birth. And she talked about putting her sister in rehab twice for drug addiction, but that her sister ultimately passed away.

The discovery is “the miracle of all miracles,” Winfrey told her audience.

Winfrey, who said DNA tests confirmed that she and Patricia are half-sisters, met with Patricia and their mother Lee in a pre-recorded segment of the show.

Lee, who recently suffered a minor stroke, said she never told Winfrey about her half-sister, “because I thought it was a terrible thing for me to do, that I had done, gave up my daughter when she was born.”

Oprah with her mum Vernita Lee

Winfrey said documents from the girl’s birth reveal that Lee gave up the baby for adoption because she did not think she could get off welfare if she kept the child.

“I made the decision to give her up because I wasn’t able to take care of her. So when I left the hospital, I told the nurse I wasn’t going to keep the baby.”

Patricia said she didn’t consider revealing that she and Winfrey were half-sisters to anyone but Winfrey, explaining that she did not want to hurt Winfrey.

“Family business should be handled by family,” Patricia said. “It couldn’t be handled by anyone else. That’s not fair. It wouldn’t be fair to you.”

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Oprah Winfrey has teased that she would reveal a shocking secret on her show today. “I thought I’d seen it all,” she says in a promo released Friday. “But this, my friends, is the miracle of all miracles.” She continued: “I was given some news that literally shook me to my core. This time, I’m the one being reunited. I was keeping a family secret for months, and you’re going to hear it straight from me.”

Oprah Winfrey

“I don’t have the least idea of what she has in mind,” Vernon Winfrey, her father, said Sunday from Tennessee.

Winfrey has not commented publicly about Kelley’s 2010 biography, which includes the allegation that Vernon Winfrey isn’t her biological father.

“There has been speculation in the past,” points out In Touch Weekly Senior Editor Amy Palmer, “that Vernon Winfrey is not her actual biological father, so this is something people are saying it could be.”

Winfrey, 57, and various biographies say she was born to unmarried teenagers Vernon Winfrey and Vernita Lee, and raised at different times by a grandmother, her mother, and her father and stepmother in Mississippi, Wisconsin and Tennessee. Two Winfrey siblings, a brother and sister, both have died.

Winfrey has shared painful and private elements of her life before, willingly or not. Her revelation that she had given birth as a teenager to a son who died shortly afterward came after a relative sold the story to a tabloid in 1990. Winfrey has also shared some of her most intimate secrets, ranging from her childhood molestation to drug abuse.

Winfrey even revealed she considered suicide after learning of an unwanted teen pregnancy, telling Piers Morgan, “I was 14 years old and … I thought, before the baby was born, ‘I’m gonna have to kill myself.” ‘

After years of reuniting loved ones, Winfrey is promising viewers the most anticipated one in her show’s 25 year history — and it’s her own, saying, “This time I’m the one being reunited.”

A clip in the promo, presumably taken from the taped episode, shows the back of a shadowy figure walking onstage.

So…what is Oprah’s family secret?

The big “family secret” that Oprah Winfrey has been promising to reveal Monday is the host’s heretofore unknown half sister, according to Kitty Kelley, author of 2010’s unauthorized Oprah: A Biography.

Biographer Kitty Kelley with Vernon Winfrey at the latter's barbershop in East Nashville

Kelley has told Time Out Chicago blogger Robert Feder that Winfrey will be reunited on her talk show with a woman named Bunny who was born to Winfrey’s mother, Vernita Lee, but given up for adoption when she was just an infant because Vernita Lee couldn’t afford to take care of her.

Kelley says her tip came from an “inside family source.” Bunny, she says, is now a grandmother.

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It may be the last year of Oprah Winfrey show, but Oprah Winfrey is definitely going out with a big bang.

In the second part of her annual Oprah Winfrey episode yesterday, the talk show host gave away a brand new Volkswagen (VW) Beetle to every member of her 275 strong audience.

Oprah and Santa Claus announcing the gift

In a video clip of the show, the studio audience turned hysterical after she drove into the studio in a VW Beetle. Some were seen gasping while others were congratulating one another.

Oprah told the audience: “I happened to own one and it is one of my favourite things,”

The initially joyous atmosphere turned a bit sombre after Oprah added: “I wanted to give everyone one of these (VW Beetle) to you but VW said no.”

Then Oprah revealed the twist.

“VW said no, ‘Sorry Oprah, we cannot give everyone this Beetle but maybe we can do one better.”

“They said we cannot give you this Beetle but how about if we give each person in your audience a brand-new, redesigned, 2012 Volkswagen Beetle?” she told her studio audience.

The new Beetle will not be revealed until May 2012 next year but Oprah gave her audience a sneak peek of the car’s silhouette.

Audience got a sneek peek of the car's silhouette

Keys were handed out to the screaming crowd, who will be the first group to get behind the wheel of the new updated model, hitting showrooms next autumn.

Overwhelmed members of the audience with the car keys

‘Oh yeah, oh yeah, I gotcha, I gotcha,’ she yelled to the stunned audience after a massive gift box was opened to reveal the car’s silhouette.

The first half of Oprah’s Favorite Things, which aired last week, saw the talk show host give away thousands of dollars worth of prizes including a Sony television and Caribbean cruise.

The 56-year-old talk show host also gave the audience an Apple iPad, which she proclaimed her ‘No. 1 favourite thing ever.’

‘I know it’s wrong to be in love with a thing, and I don’t normally recommend it,’ she said, before declaring the gadget the ‘best invention of the century so far.’

Apple iPad

Oprah also gave the audience several items of clothing, including a cashmere sweater, Ugg boots covered in sequins and a patent-leather Coach bag that cost nearly $400.

‘It’s not really about all the gifts,’ she said. ‘Although the stuff is really fun, it really for me is about hope.

‘It’s about knowing that something really magical and joyful and wonderful can happen to you when you least expect it.’

According to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report, Volkswagen is using the show as a launching pad for its redesigned Beetle even though the car’s sale date is a year away.

The introduction was part of the car maker’s plan to raise the profile of the Beetle, along with the rest of its models, said the report.

Volkswagen told WSJ that Winfrey had mentioned the Beetle was among her favourite things.

“And if you follow Oprah, you know she likes to share her favorite things,” Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, told WSJ.

The report further mentioned that the new Beetle was meant to strengthen the company’s image as a maker of sporty cars with enough performance to attract enthusiasts and not just shoppers looking for something cute.

WSJ reported that VW will be donating 275 of the 2012 Beetles plus applicable taxes and fees.

This is not the first time she has given away cars. In 2004, Winfrey gave 276 Pontiac G6 cars to her audience.

Oprah Gave Away 276 Pontiac G6 in 2004.

Oprah has developed a bit of a reputation for generous giveaways of late.

Back in September, she lavished a trip to Australia on her audience members to mark the premiere of the 25th season of her show.

She announced that John Travolta would pilot all 300 of her audience to Sydney.

Oprah explained her decision to leave the show next year to concentrate on her new cable network Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). OWN is a joint venture with Discovery Communications Inc. that is expected to debut in some 74 million homes in 2011.

OWN - Oprah Winfrey Network

‘This show has been my life, and I love it enough to know when it’s time to say goodbye,’ she said.

‘Twenty-five years feels right in my bones and it feels right in my spirit. It’s the perfect number. It’s the exact right time.’

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It’s the show of all shows: Oprah’s Favorite Things.

Each year, when Oprah surprises her audience with her Favorite Things episode, the crowd (understandably) goes wild. This year was no exception.

Friday’s “Oprah Winfrey Show” audience, made up of what Oprah described as “heroes and ultimate viewers,” thought they were in the studio for an episode about giving. But when the jingle bells started playing and Oprah revealed a hidden red dress, pandemonium ensued.

Oprah's Favorite Things

Watch below as the crowd freaks out time and again over their various giveaways.

The show is dedicated to a special group of people Oprah calls community heroes, those who have been givers in their daily lives and work., and Oprah does something for the first time in the 25-year history of her show. Oprah says she wanted to give the ultimate giveback.

“When I walked out and ripped my dress off and said this is Favorite Things,” Oprah said.

And with that the audience went into a frenzy with cheers, tears and hugs. They were jumping for joy in sheer amazement, realizing that they are all getting Oprah’s Favorite Things. Hands were waving and hearts fluttering.

“We had a couple of paramedics on standby because this audience — I’ve seen a lot over the years, but I’ve never seen people act like that,” said Oprah.

Well who could blame them? They were recipients of Oprah’s Favorite Things and the Queen of Talk said they deserved it because they are people she calls “heroes.”

“The audience was filled with local people and a lot of people from out of town who were handpicked because they were givers and believe in giving back,” said Oprah. “So today they got the ultimate giveback for themselves.”

Oprah Winfrey saved some of her best giveaways for her final season, revealing a 3D Sony Bravia TV, a diamond encrusted watch and 7-day cruise as some of her “Ultimate Favorite Things” during Friday’s show.

Winfrey surprised an audience filled with screeching men and women–who Winfrey called her ultimate viewers because of their dedication to give back to the community–with a special performance from the Black Eyed Peas and some of her favorite picks:

Phillip Stein limited edition Oprah 25th anniversary watch with 58 handset diamonds ($2,475)

Flannel Tory Tote ($250) and Reva Ballerina Flat ($195) by Tory Burch

Nikon D3100 Digital SLR camera ($700)

Breville panini press from Williams-Sonoma ($100)

Cashmere sweater by Ralph Lauren and throw ($498)

Judith Ripka eclipse earrings ($525)

Lafco House candle set ($55 each)

Kyocera ceramic knife ($75)

5-year Netflix membership

52-inch 3D Bravia Sony television ($3,600)

Sony Blue-Ray player and movie collection

Kiva gift card courtesy Groupon

Elfa custom-built Container Store closet ($1,000)

Lululemon drawstring pant ($98)

7-day United/Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas cruise

Alas, this is the last season of the Oprah Winfrey Show and, presumably, this is Oprah’s final Favorite Things episode.

A mere mention from the talk show diva can be worth big money. A Seattle chef’s “world’s best” mac and cheese made this year’s list.

Chef Kurt Beecher Dammeier shared the wealth with customers Friday. He offered free mac and cheese at his Pike Place store.

Oprah Winfrey introduces Beecher's World Famous Mac and Cheese as one of her favorite things

Chef Dammeier opened Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in 2006. He has no clue how Oprah discovered his flagship mac and cheese. As far as he knows, she’s never been to his store.

Six weeks ago, Oprah’s team called him out of the blue.

“It really hasn’t sunk in yet. I got several calls from Oprah’s team asking for samples and I was so nervous. They called recently to let me know I made the cut.”

Chef Dammeier was sworn to secrecy until the show aired Friday. The Mercer Island entrepreneur has spent weeks bulletproofing his website in anticipation of the “O Factor.”

But there’s one big problem. The secret weapon in the dish is an aged flagship cheese. It must age 18 months before it can be put into the dish.

“We can’t sell anymore than we already have from 18 months, so we hope we have enough to fill the need. We just don’t know.”

Oprah’s team told Dammeier to expect several hundred thousand hits to his website following the publicity. An hour after the show aired in Seattle, Beecher’s site already had 20,000 hits.

“It’s a marketer’s dream. What better way to get the word out about your product than by Oprah and 20 million of her closest friends?” said McClaine.

Dammeier is hoping for that same golden touch. He gave away more than 500 pounds of free mac and cheese to customers in Pike Place.

Retailers have long known that Oprah has the golden touch. Products that have appeared on her shows have leapt off of shelves. Her Favorite Things list is one of the most highly prized product placements in all of retail.

Oprah Winfrey has changed her hairstyle many many times over the last twenty-five years. But, what she says had remained the same is the man behind the magic.

Andre Walker’s new haircare line, which is designed for all hair types, is the only thing that Oprah uses. “It took him 25 years, but Andre’s finally bottled the magic just for you,” she says. This ultimate gift set includes keratin shampoo, keratin conditioner, shine-enhancing Q-oil and root-covering hair makeup. The value of the set is just $65 and you can find out more at AndreWalkerhair.com.

Oprah, truly one of the most influential women of all time!

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In 2000, from a remote village in India, a video footage emerged, showing a young girl receiving surgery to separate her fingers which were badly burned and fused together. The operation made headlines around the world because it was performed by a 7-year-old boy named Akrit Jaswal who was born on April 23, 1993.

Akrit Jaswal

The girl, who could not afford a doctor, was eight. Her hand had been burnt in a fire, causing her fingers to close into a tight fist that wouldn’t open. Akrit had no formal medical training and no experience of surgery, yet he managed to free her fingers and she was able to use her hand again.

“He learned very fast,” says Raksha, Akrit’s mother. “After learning the alphabet, we started to teach him joining of words, and he started writing as well. He was two.” While in class II he cleared exams meant for class V. His mother realized he was special when he would answer graduate level questions.

At 4 when most children are learning their ABCs, Akrit was reading Shakespeare and assembling a library of medical textbooks. When he was 5 years old, he enrolled in school. One year later, Akrit was teaching English and math classes.

Akrit developed a passion for science and anatomy at an early age. Doctors at local hospitals took notice and started allowing him to observe surgeries when he was 6 years old. Inspired by what he saw, Akrit read everything he could on the topic. When an impoverished family heard about his amazing abilities, they asked if he would operate on their daughter for free. Her surgery was a success.

Akrit Jaswal

After the surgery, Akrit was hailed as a medical genius in India. Neighbors and strangers flocked to him for advice and treatment. Nowadays when Akrit is in town, people gather for an audience. They come with prescriptions and medicines, seeking advice. They come with ailments and injuries for a diagnosis. They come to see a doctor, a healer. They come to see a guru, and because in India, there is always a spiritual dimension.

At age 11, he was invited to London’s famed Imperial College to exchange ideas with scientists on the cutting edge of medical research.

When he was13 years old, Akrit had an IQ of 146 and was considered the smartest person his age in India; a country of more than a billion people. This is an IQ level that beats even that of Albert Einstein, according to the Gifted Development Centre, USA.

Akrit says he has millions of medical ideas, but he’s currently focused on developing a cure for cancer. “I’ve developed a concept called oral gene therapy on the basis of my research and my theories,” he says. “I’m quite dedicated towards working on this mechanism.” His research is focused on  modification of malformed genes that cause cancer and their successful repair either by the activation of enzymes or direct modification of genotoxic drugs.

Growing up, Akrit says he used to see cancer patients lying on the side of the road because they couldn’t afford treatment or hospitals had no space for them. Now, he wants to use his intellect to ease their suffering. “I’ve been going to hospitals since the age of 6, so I have seen first hand people suffering from pain,” he says. “I get very sad, and so that’s the main motive of my passion about medicine, my passion about cancer.”

Now 17, Akrit is working toward a Science degree in zoology, botany and chemistry at Punjab University in Chandigarh, India and is the youngest person ever accepted by an Indian university. Someday, he hopes to continue his studies at Harvard University.

When Akrit was eight his father resigned from his job as an economics adviser in Delhi so he could devote himself to his son’s talents. He moved the family back to their home village and set up a school for his son so his talents could be nurtured. He began a crusade to get the boy into a medical school when he was eight, but no Indian school would accept anyone under 17.

A very young Akrit Jaswal with his parents

Frustrated with the perceived lack of support for his gifted son, Akrit’s father became depressed and left the family home some time back, telling him not to get in touch until Akrit had found a cure for cancer. Adored by his self-sacrificing mother and treated as a genius, Akrit has faith he will do this.

In February 2007, Akrit Jaswal appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show. When Oprah asked if he could understand Shakespeare at the mere age of four he answered, “I could understand it. That’s why I was reading it.”

Akrit on the Oprah Winfrey show

He is a prodigy who has been touted in America and sold to the media as a Mozart of modern medicine. But Akrit has his critics and plenty of people are sceptical about the claims made on his behalf. Some say he is just a very bright boy with an exceptional memory but no real gift for science. Others claim he is the victim of pushy parents who stole his childhood.

Being so intellectually gifted comes with a heavy burden of living up to other people’s expectation. He has been told that he must do something great with his life, and has made it known that he doesn’t always feel positive about having his life predetermined in such a way. Is that the price one must pay for being a prodigy?

The following videos are parts 1 – 5 of a program called “Extraordinary People” featuring Akrit Jaswal:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5


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