Never Give Up: What I Learned from Tina Turner.
When I started as a solo artist, I was a female Black singer in my forties with no money and few prospects for gigs. Still, I kept a ‘never give up’ spirit. Part of my spiritual practice is to change poison into medicine, to transform roadblocks through positivity. The force of my positivity pushed the discriminatory ‘ isms’ standing in my way. We all have it within our power to make decisions and take actions that elevate us. Every day, we express who we are and who we wish to become through our thoughts, words, and deeds. Choose the positive path in everything you do. Spread positivity and kindness. That’s the way. My legacy is that I stayed on course, from beginning to the end, because I believed in something inside of me. (Ms. Tina Turner. 1939-2023—from Black History Studies)
Tina Turner was a source of inspiration and light during a dark time in my life.
In 1985, my husband of nine years persuaded me to put my acting life on hold to financially support him through law school. In exchange, he promised to return the favor once he passed the bar, so I could focus on my acting career full-time.
Believe in Yourself
Deep down, I realized this was a bad idea. I watched Oprah. She had an entire show devoted to why men leave their wives after the wife sacrifices so much to educate him. It appears men feel powerless in a relationship when the wife holds the purse strings. Case in point, over the four years my husband was pursuing his law degree, our marriage went from hot sex to no sex to my husband sleeping on the couch.
I held up my end of the bargain, but during those four years, I grew increasingly unhappy as my acting dreams floated further away. After my husband passed the bar, he didn’t want to be a lawyer, so he went into the movie business, and after being on location on a film for six months, he returned home to inform me he was moving to LA to become a motion picture producer and I wasn’t invited.
I was devastated, alone, unemployed, forty, without an agent or acting contacts. I tried to see this as an opportunity (which it was), but not yet. No longer able to afford therapy, I dragged myself out of bed to attend Twelve-step meetings. When I shared, I sobbed and raged at the heavens. Somebody give this woman an Academy Award. I also discovered I was a flaming codependent. I was miserable and furious. I couldn’t believe this was my fate.
Enter Tina Turner.
I’m not sure how I got ahold of her book, but in 1990, after my husband left, I started reading I, Tina: My Life Story by the incomparable Tina Turner. Learning about her relationship with Ike, what she endured, and how she reclaimed her life and her soul inspired me and, like a life raft in the middle of the ocean, gave me something to hold on to. He could not destroy her spirit no matter how long or hard he beat her.
Tina became my North Star. I carried the paperback in my purse. Whenever I got upset, felt worthless, or believed nothing would change, I opened that book and started reading, and Tina’s words fortified and sustained me. Tina found her strength in Buddhism (I, too, chanted for a while), but I found my strength in Tina.
Never Give Up
When Tina left Ike and tried to start her solo career, everyone told her she was too old, and no one was interested, but she persisted. At forty-four, she became the oldest female solo artist to top the HOT 100. I played her Private Dancer album non-stop on my Walkman as I maneuvered the city streets and subways. If Tina could leave Ike with only the clothes on her back and rise like the Phoenix, then there was hope for me.
Her book became a bestseller and in 1993 was made into a movie, What’s Love Got to Do with It, starring Angela Bassett as Tina and Laurence Fishburne as her abusive husband, Ike Turner.
My husband never hit me. He wasn’t physically abusive. He was psychologically controlling and narcissistic and enjoyed gaslighting me. He tried to keep me in my place and undercut my confidence by telling me I was too old or not attractive enough to be an actress. And he made plenty of nasty comments to keep me feeling insecure and not good enough.
Change Poison into Medicine
Out of desperation, I started therapy in 1990, and after months of treatment, my therapist informed me I was an Adult Child. I had no idea what she was referring to. I grew up with two highly-functioning alcoholic parents, and that insidious disease is spread around the entire family whether you drink or not. I just thought I hated my life. My therapist sent me to ACOA meetings. Determined to heal my stuff, I worked my ass off for seven years to get to the other side of my trauma and forgive my past, so I could function as a healthy adult.
I, like Tina, was also told I was too old to be an actress and should do something useful with my life. My ex suggested I’d make a good accountant. But I’m hard-headed, so like Scarlet O’Hara railing at the heavens, I kept plugging away. I couldn’t find work as an actress, so I did stand-up comedy for four and a half years. I wasn’t making any money, the late hours sucked, and riding the C train home alone at 3 a.m. wasn’t fun. Out of options, I started doing SAG extra work on TV and movie sets to make money. Those jobs grew into standing in for lead characters, and eventually, I began booking principal parts in film, TV, and a Broadway show.
Transform Roadblocks Through Positivity
All our experiences have a purpose. They are here to teach us and help us grow. In retrospect, I realize my husband was my greatest teacher. His betrayal and mistreatment forced me to deal with my buried demons and heal myself. Going through therapy and recovery isn’t fun. Dredging up all that old emotional baggage is infuriating and time-consuming, but little by little, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m so grateful I had the tenacity to do it.
Stay the Course
I say all this because it’s never too late. If you’re passionate about something, never let anyone discourage you or tell you you can't do it or you’re too old. If you have a dream, go for it. It may not turn out how you planned (mine didn’t), but too many people die with their dreams left inside them. The world needs your gifts. Can you imagine if Tina had given up?
Spread positivity and kindness.
Years later, I saw Tina live in concert at Radio City Music Hall, third-row center. There she was in all her glory, a force of nature, a force for good on the planet, and a blessing to me and the world. I’m so glad she found tremendous success and a loving relationship.
Thank you, Tina, you may be gone, but your legacy and lessons remain.