Wynonna was a teenager when she and her mother began their rise to superstardom as the Judds. With five Grammys, 14 number one hits and 20 million albums sold, they quickly established themselves as country music legends.
The Judds toured for eight years—some of which were fraught with mother-daughter tension—before a hepatitis C diagnosis forced Naomi to retire in 1991.
Four months later, Wynonna launched a successful solo career and sold out stadium after stadium. Meanwhile, her younger sister, Ashley, made a name for herself as a Hollywood actress.
After triumphing over personal struggles, the Judds have come full circle. In November 2010, they will kick off their "Last Encore" tour.
Now, in what may be their farewell Oprah Show interview, Wynonna and Naomi are doing what they do best—having a no-holds-barred conversation.
Through the years, Wynonna has publicly shared her most painful struggles. "People walk up to me in airports and say, 'Why did you put your dirty laundry on Oprah?' I said, 'Because I want to be a teacher,'" she says. "I'm willing to teach through my mistakes and my victories."
Now, Wynonna hopes to help others by sharing how she survived an unimaginable betrayal. In 2007, Wynonna's then-husband, Daniel Roach, was convicted of attempted aggravated sexual battery against a minor.
Wynonna says she was in a public place when she first learned of Roach's arrest. "I'm literally in an airport on a golf cart, and people are pointing at me. 'Oh, she's the girl on the 5 o' clock news.'"
Once home, Wynonna says she went into "mama bear mode" with her own children, Elijah and Grace. "He was out of the house within the hour," she says. "I called him everything I could think of. I had a moment where I let it all fly, and then it was done."
Five days after Roach's arrest, Wynonna filed for divorce from the man who had once been her bodyguard. The ordeal, Wynonna says, broke her wide open. "I trusted him with my life, and I didn't want to stop trusting [people]," she says. "It's a little tough because once burned, forever fears the fire. I didn't want to be hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
Though she'll talk about her own pain, Wynonna says she's reluctant to speak about certain aspects of the case out of respect for the child involved. "This story is so deep and wide. There's more to it than I can tell you," she says. "Because of the child, I won't speak about it. It's their story [to tell] when they're ready to talk."
Still, she admits she did know the child. "That's what's so scary is that it is someone that you know," she says. "There's a trust there. There's a bond."
Wynonna says she's had to step back from the child and his or her family since the incident. "They're in the [healing] process, and it's none of my business," she says. "I had to separate from it or it would have killed me. I literally had to physically, emotionally and spiritually literally place them at the feet of Jesus."
Wynonna says she was determined to become better, not bitter, after her divorce. "When I got really alone, my life coach said: 'You'll think you're going to die from crying of a broken heart. And if you'll let yourself lean into the pain, you'll wake up one day and you'll stop crying and you'll move forward,'" she says. "I just had to have faith and believe in someone else because I didn't believe in myself."
Wynonna says Roach struggled with addiction, and her family had to learn to heal from that. "That saved me, making sure that my children, that we, could break the cycle of addiction," she says. "It's baffling. It's cunning. We are not our diseases."
According to Wynonna, Roach is in recovery. "He's sober, and that's what matters to me now."
In the end, Wynonna found strength in focusing on what was best for her and her children. "The best revenge is living well," she says. "I cleaned out my house, got rid of everything that reminded me of him."
Forgiveness, she says, is an ongoing process. "[I] haven't forgotten, but I have forgiven. Enough that I humanly can," she says. "I don't wish him dead or anything like that. I just wish to be one of those people that doesn't spend my life being defined by that."
Wynonna's faith was tested again after surviving two near-death experiences in the summer of 2010. "I had some surgery to repair my stomach wall, ... and I had a major blood clot go through my heart, and the doctor says I should have died," she says. "I was in the studio two months later singing with blood clots in my lungs."
In July, Wynonna escaped a near-fatal car crash. "[A] guy fell asleep and hit me head-on at 55 miles per hour," she says. "They life-flighted him, and I walked away because [the rental company] upgraded me to an SUV because they love my music."
Wynonna says she's lucky to be alive. "I'm grateful to be anywhere," she says. "I used to wake up and say, 'Oh, God, it's morning.' Now I say, 'Good morning, God.'"
Today, Wynonna is lighter both mentally and physically. She's lost 60 pounds by taking things one step at a time. "In my darkest hour, I had a choice to make: I can be a victim or a victor. And I just started walking in the wilderness and screaming at God, 'Why?'" she says. "I just kept walking, and next thing I know, I like to walk. So I call it meditative walking versus 'I've-got-to-be-in-the-Olympics' or 'get-back-to-my-original-weight-of-8-pounds-15-ounces' [walking]."
As a result, Wynonna's loving her spirit and her body. "Let's just put it this way: I don't look in the mirror and go, 'You suck,'" she says. "The other day, a guy half my age asked me out, and I said: ''I admire your courage, but you're not showing good sense. I could eat you up alive.'"
Wynonna says she's on fire from head to toe and even took her first child-free vacation in five years.
Oprah: "Did you do any frisky, feisty stuff with anybody?"
Wynonna: "Hell yeah."
Oprah: "Are you dating someone now?"
Wynonna: "Hell yeah. But I'm not going to say any more about it. Let's just say I have a pep in my step."
Wynonna says she's finally putting herself first. "I feel like I finally got it. I turned 45, went through a horrible divorce," she says. "I lost my family and I gained myself because I was all alone with God."
Wynonna says she's also found balance. "I just started to say no, which was painful. I started to work less," she says. "And I'm making more because I'm making decisions based on faith, not fear."
Her need to please is also a thing of the past. "I don't have to solve everything, and I don't care as much if everyone loves me," she says.
Instead, Wynonna enjoys the present. "Before I came [onstage], I stopped and I looked around. I paid attention to my environment and where I'm at," she says. "I'm not so hell-bent on the destination. I know it's a journey. I'm in a really good place."
Much has changed since the Judds last toured, but both mother and daughter say they're grateful to hit the road together one last time. "I'm radiantly healthy and feisty as ever," Naomi says. "Just say we're loaded and the safety's off!"
On past tours, Naomi and Wynonna have shared a bus. Not this time! "I'm going to have my husband on the bus," Naomi says. "I'm taking four dogs."
"I ain't taking nobody," Wynonna jokes.
Naomi and Wynonna say simple shifts in communication have made major inroads in their relationship. "What [therapy] taught me, I guess, more than anything is to be nonresistant," Naomi says. "Being invitational instead of confrontational."
The women have also worked on setting boundaries and saying no to one another in more constructive ways. "We're moving forward by saying, 'Mom, what I hear you saying is that really doesn't work for you,'" Wynonna says. "I don't have to like it. I don't have to agree with it. [I can say], 'I still think you're crazy,' whatever. But I can say, 'I really understand why you feel that way.'"
Their newfound openness, Wynonna says, has blessed them with the gift of listening. "We call it last-drop listening," she says. "When they're finished and there's a pause, rather than thinking of what you're going to say, you literally pause and you say, 'Is there more?'"
Above all, Wynonna says her relationship with Naomi is stronger because they accept one another for who they are. "She has a different reality than I do," Wynonna says. "Rather than get stuck in the muck of the stinkin' thinkin' of, 'Well, you did this and you did that,' I listen to her."
In fact, Wynonna says she wants to tour to have the opportunity to understand Naomi as a person, not just a mother. "I used to say, 'If it's not one thing, it's your mother,' and make jokes," Wynonna says. "I feel like this is a chance for me to really know who she is. Because before I was so reactive and I was so worried about just trying to survive and stand up for myself and push back and now I'm like: 'I release you. I let you go. I love you.'"
Naomi says she's proud of Wynonna. "I love what Darwin said: 'It's not the strongest or the smartest of us that survive. It's the one that's willing to evolve and adapt,'" Naomi says. "I always tell her she'll go far. Flexible, adaptable, resilient."