Oprah: Was it a self-esteem issue? There's no way this could happen to you today. I just ran across a letter I wrote in my 20s, when I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I'd written 12 pages to one of the great jerks of all time. I wanted to burn the letter. I want no record of the fact that I was ever so pitiful.

Tina: I had pity for myself. That started way back when I felt my mother didn't love me. A psychic in England told me that when my mother was pregnant with me, she didn't want me. When I confronted Ma about that, she told me the whole story. When I was born, she felt trapped into staying with my father. I didn't blame her, but I felt sorry for myself.

Oprah: Not being wanted is a terrible feeling. My mother didn't want me, either.

Tina: Did you feel pity for yourself?

Oprah: No. But it affected my self-esteem for years. It's unnatural to not be wanted by your mother. That takes some overcoming.

Tina: Right. I don't think about my years with Ike a lot because I don't need to. It was the worst time in my life.

Oprah: Did your children witness the abuse?

Tina: They saw the black eyes. Ike's children never reacted, but my oldest son, Craig, was a very emotional kid. He'd always look down in sadness. One day when Ike was fighting me, Craig knocked on the door and said, "Mother, are you all right?" I thought, "Oh, please, don't beat me at home." I didn't want my children to hear. I tried to have meals with the children, talk to them about life. But Ike had no sense of that. He'd always come home late from the studio. It was awful.

Oprah: What did you learn from that time?

Tina: That I have to depend on myself. When you stay in a situation like that, you're trapped in negative energy. I believe that if you'll just stand up and go, life will open up for you. Something just motivates you to keep moving. When I left, I simply said to that white manager at a hotel in Texas, "Can you give me a room?" I was shaken, nervous, scared. But I knew I wasn't going back.

After my plane landed in California, my heart was in my ears. I was afraid Ike would be there because when I'd left once before, he tracked me down on a bus. I'd been sleeping, and when I sat up and looked out the window, there he was. That was the first time I got beat with a hanger. So when I got off that plane, I ran like mad. I said to myself, "If he's here, I'm going to scream for the police." And I had one chant in my head: "I will die before I go back."

Oprah: After surviving that, did you feel you could do anything?

Tina: Oh, yes.

Oprah: Were you still scared of him for a long time?

Tina: When he finally found me, he asked if I would see him. I went out and sat in the car to talk with him. I knew exactly where the door handle was. So when he said, "You motherf---er," I was out of the car and back in the house. I think he told my mother that he was happy I'd gotten out of the car because he had a gun and was planning to kill me.

Oprah: Weren't you afraid?

Tina: I wasn't afraid of death. And I knew there was nothing he could say or do that would make me go back to him. In court, during the divorce, he tried to give me a mean look. I wanted to say, "You're such an idiot. Do you think your vibes can even reach me now?" He had no power over me. For anyone who's in an abusive relationship, I say this: Go. Nothing can be worse than where you are now. You have to take care of yourself first—and then you take care of your children. They will understand later.

Oprah: I got that.

Tina: Your children are blessed. They possibly have good karma, or someone will take them in. People take care of children. But they don't always take care of you.

Oprah: I understand that in a way that I've never understood it. How old were the kids when you finally left?

Tina: Old enough. Craig had graduated from high school. My youngest son, Ronnie, was still in school. The housekeeper was there. I made sure they would be all right. But before you can really help them, you have to strengthen yourself. You're the priority.

Oprah: How did you get on that plane with only 36 cents?

Tina: I called one of our lawyers who had often looked at me with a face that said, "Why do you stay?" I said, "I've left Ike. If you can send money, I promise to pay you back one day." The lawyer called some friends in Fort Worth, and the next day, a couple came to the hotel. They didn't say a word to me. I just got in their backseat. The country was still very segregated, yet these white people were doing something for a black woman. When I arrived in California, I took a taxi to a hotel in Hollywood to meet the lawyer. He paid for the cab, and from there, we went to his home. The next day was the Fourth of July—Independence Day. That holiday had never meant so much.

Oprah: You've been a Buddhist for a long time. What brought you to that?

Tina: The women who sold drugs to Ike said, "What are you doing here, Tina? How can you live with this madness?" Then one day, someone told me, "Buddhism will save your life." I was willing to try anything. I started to chant. Once, I chanted, went to the studio, and put down a vocal, just like that. Ike was so excited that he gave me a big wad of money and said, "Go shopping!" I thought, "This chanting stuff works." I was hooked. I still believe in the Lord's Prayer. I find a form of the Lord's Prayer in Buddhism. Every religion has rules for living a good life. If you practice any kind of spirituality, it moves you to stages where you gather other ways of communicating.

Oprah: That's exactly what I believe. You evolve new parts of yourself.

Tina: I never close a door on any other religion. Most of the time, some part of it makes sense to me. I don't believe everyone has to chant just because I chant. I believe all religion is about touching something inside of yourself. It's all one thing. If we would realize this, we could make a change in this millennium.


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