Oprah on the set with Arie, 2007.
Not long ago, I received a letter from a friend who's in the music business. Ask anyone in that world and they'll tell you that glamour and Grammys aside, it's a tough business. And like any business, especially a creative one, you have to keep reinventing yourself to stay relevant.
But my friend found that she'd lost her way in the very experience she loved most: making music.
That sort of thing happens to most of us at some point. We get caught up and lose our energy and strength and power to an agenda other than our own.
I asked my friend if I could share part of her letter with you, thinking her path back to herself might help you on this universal journey. So here's how India Arie got her power back:
"I took your advice to heart. After last year hurt bad enough, I chose—you said 'the universe will rise up to meet you wherever you are,' so I decided to just be me.
"Singing in different languages and working with people from different cultures was how I envisioned my career. But in the quest for 'success,' to make a hit so that I could own myself and then be free, I'd gone so far off the path of my own vision, I didn't even know what that was anymore.
"I thought the music business had usurped my power, but really, I gave my power away—to other people and to anything I thought would make my life easier.
"Since October I've been rebuilding. I prayed my power back into my body. And in March I started just making the music I love, following the guidance of spirit to a tee. I didn't censor or second-guess. I listened to spirit and wrote those exact words.
"I was always told not to get too preachy or esoteric or spiritual. And while I've never said anything I didn't want to say, I've never said some of the most important things I do want to say. About acceptance versus tolerance, and the oneness of all people... But now I have.
"I've been making my own choices, speaking my truth to the people around me, letting myself be a part of the world again. (Stevie Wonder and Cicely Tyson both told me I needed to break the shell, and they used the same exact words. I know what they meant now.)
"I finally reached the fork in the road, and I chose the path of authenticity. I don't know what's going to happen. But I feel good!"
None of us knows what the future holds, but I know that India's choice to be more authentic is her best chance of making a hit—and for sure her best chance of making happiness.
I can't wait to hear her new album. It's called Open Door.
She says that when she started to write it, the songs "just flowed." Because that's what life is: an open door to all that is possible. And that's a powerful thing.
Next: Martha Beck's 4-step plan for how to get the world to see the real you
From the October 2010 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!