When Buena Vista Television's Iyanla
launches next fall, she'll face some stiff competition in the talk circuit. Coming out of last week's NATPE, the list is long for chat-related "firm-go" projects, which include Caroline, Ananda, Talk or Walk
and Crossing Over With John Edward. Then, if Iyanla
can rise above the other rookies, she'll still have to butt heads with the slew of returning talk efforts, including the leader of the pack by far, Oprah.
But there's one thing Iyanla
can count on to set her apart from the crowd: she's got Barbara Walters. And as the show's executive producer, Walter is vocal about why viewers should like Iyanla.
"Iyanla has greatness," says Walters of the syndicated strip's star, Iyanla Vanzant, the best-selling author of such self-help books as Yesterday, I Cried. "And I would only want to be attached to a project that has integrity."
Already dividing her time among The View, 20/20
and her signature interview specials, Walters admits she is spread too thin to be a hands-on producer with Iyanla, but "I am here for all the important decisions."
One way for Iyanla
to really make a splash next season would be to invite Walters on the debut episode, but Walters says, "No appearances."
She genuinely believes Vanzant has enough oomph to make it on her own. And Vanzant does have answers for any skeptics. There is an audience for Iyanla, she says, because "there are too many normal people out there who don't have drinking problems, who don't have eating problem. So [which talk shows] are for the normal people? Where they can say I'm making a decent salary, but damn, I hate my hair?"
Vanzant wants to assure that TV viewing segment that "it's OK to be OK." But is that enough for Vanzant to give Oprah
a run for her money? "Which direction are you going to run in? How do you give Oprah
a run for her money?" she asks.
And she notes that her frequent guest appearances on Oprah
earned her a green light for Iyanla
from Oprah Winfrey herself. "She gave me some advice. She said, 'You can do this.'"