Oprah Talks to Tina Turner
Tina: Yeah, I always had long legs. When I was young, I used to think, "Why do I look like a little pony?"
Oprah: Your legs aren't just long, they're shapely and beautiful.
Tina: I never put a lot of praise on myself because of my relationship with Ike. I was just happy when I started to like myself—when I divorced and took control of my life.
Oprah: You didn't just divorce. You broke out.
Tina: That's right.
Oprah: Growing up, how poor were you? Every time I hear your song "Nutbush City Limits," I think of my little hometown in Mississippi.
Tina: We weren't in poverty. We had food on the table. We just didn't have fancy things, like bicycles. We were church people, so on Easter, we got all done up. I was very innocent and didn't know much else. I knew the radio—B.B. King, country and western. That's about it. I didn't know anything about being a star until the white people allowed us to come down and watch their television once a week.
Oprah: Which white people?
Tina: The Poindexters. My [maternal] grandmother lived on their farm. That's when I saw Loretta Young on TV. I thought someday I'd have a star on my dressing room. But guess what? When we did "A Fool in Love," and we went to the clubs, we were in a storage room full of beer bottles, Coke bottles. We had to dust and clean up. We were on the road, sleeping in the car.
Oprah: But you started to dream when you first saw Loretta Young?
Tina: Before that. Remember Betty Grable?
Tina: You're 15 years younger than me. Betty Grable [a World War II pinup girl and actress] had beautiful short legs. She was in proportion.
Oprah: Your legs are endless.
Tina: That's what I didn't like. I didn't know how to buy clothes for that. As I grew up, I learned what worked for me. That's where the short dresses came from. And you can't dance in a long dress.
Oprah: No, no. But let's start with Nutbush. What carried you to the next point?
Tina: Fate. When my parents went off to Knoxville to work, I lived with my father's mother. She was strict—the kind who starched and ironed dresses. I had to sit more than I played. Oh, I was miserable. I liked being out with the animals. I'd come in the house with my hair pulled out, sash off the dress, dirty as heck. I was always getting spanked. When my parents returned, they separated. Oooh, Oprah! You know what happens to children sometimes when their parents separate—school can be really cruel. I got teased, and it interfered with my learning. But I grew out of that, and I fell in love in high school. Why did I fall so deeply in love? I think when you haven't had that much love at home, and then you find someone you love, everything comes out.
Oprah: The first love can be the most difficult to get through because you've had no experience.
Tina: That's right. When I think of Harry now, my heart beats faster. He was the most good-looking guy. Everything was in the right place—his eyes, his nose, his mouth. He was a basketball star. Sometimes I'd wear his jacket. It was fainting hot, but because it was his jacket, I wore it. It was magical.
Oprah: I can see that.
Tina: Harry also took my virginity. I don't regret it. I came home that night and folded the dress I'd been wearing and put it away. The next day, my grandmother was doing spring cleaning and everything got washed. When I came home, she said, "I knew you were running around. You're gonna get pregnant." Oh, Oprah! I felt embarrassed. I didn't know what to say. She didn't wash the dress. She just left it out. There was this big spot on it. She didn't let me go dating Harry anymore.
Oprah: Your eyes still light up when you talk about him.
Tina: At the time, I wanted to get married and have children. Harry would have been the one. Years later, after "What's Love Got to Do with It," I ran into his son. He came up to me and said, "Harry Taylor is my father." He looked just like Harry. I thought, "My God, that must have been from another lifetime."
Oprah: It's so interesting what maturity does. What did the Ike years teach you about yourself?
Tina: That's when I learned that I was truly talented. Before I met Ike, I was singing at church and at picnics—but lots of people sing at church and picnics. After I moved with my mother to St. Louis, my older sister and I went to see Ike Turner, who was the hottest then. His music charged me. I was never attracted to him, but I wanted to sing with his band. Ike thought I couldn't sing because I was a skinny-looking girl. Oprah, you were Ike's type. He liked the ladies with the hips.
Oprah: Oh, I really missed out on that one! What is Ike's phone number?
Tina: There was a girl named Pat, and she looked a lot like you, Oprah. He let her sing because she was his type. Pat couldn't sing nearly as well as I could. One evening when the drummer gave my sister the mike, I took it. I could do B.B. King songs with all the emotion. Ike said, "Girl, I didn't know you could sing!" I was so happy, because he was bigger than life. That's when I knew I wanted to be an entertainer. Forget marriage, children, and living happily ever after as a housewife. That was gone. Ike went out and bought me a fur, a dress, some high-heeled shoes. He got my hair all done up. I rode to work in a pink Cadillac. I even got my teeth fixed.
Oprah: How old were you?
Tina: Seventeen. Ike had to come to the house and ask Ma if it was okay for me to sing with him. He knew I had the potential to be a star. We were close, like brother and sister. We had so much fun, Oprah. On his off nights, we'd drive around town, and he would tell me about his life, his dreams. He told me that when he was young, people found him unattractive. That really hurt him. I felt bad for him. I thought, "I'll never hurt you, Ike." I meant it. He was so nice to me then, but I did see the other side of him. He was always fighting people—but I just thought that was because they'd wronged him. That had nothing to do with me.