Johnson was joined by her sisters, her mother Brenda and singer father Syl Johnson in attempt to hash out the family’s ongoing problems. The show features the diva opening up about the years of bullying and verbal abuse she endured from her mother in hopes of learning to forgive her. Johnson had a chance to speak with ESSENCE.com about the emotional episode, her current relationship with her mother and what she took away from her time with Iyanla.
ESSENCE: What made you decide to go on Iyanla?
SYLEENA JOHNSON: I’ve been a fan of her work for year ever since I was 16 years old. I really felt like she could bring some clarity and bring my family to the next level because we’ve been struggling with so many issues. It’s one thing to live apart from your family and not have to deal with those issues. But when my mother moved in with me, those issues came back. I thought it would be really great to get Iyanla on board with my family, but also for a lot of daughters out there who are dealing with issues like mine with their moms.
ESSENCE: At one point in the episode your mom says that when you cry or show emotion you’re weak. Are you the same way?
JOHNSON: That is who I am. Or rather, that was who I was. We were raised to think that. One of the things I hated was seeing myself cry on R&B Divas because I felt vulnerable and weak. If you have to be the strongest one a lot and when you cry nobody cares, I guess that’s the exterior that you develop. I definitely got that from my mother. My sisters are the same. We don’t cry, we don’t hug, we don’t say, “I love you.” We don’t do things that are mushy. That’s just how we were raised.
ESSENCE: When did you realize that the lack of emotion was something that was not common?
JOHNSON: I was in a lot of sports and activities in high school and I would be around my friends a lot because my mom worked and my dad was on the road. I would get rides with friends and their families and would see how their parents talked to them. Not to say they were wonderful and great but I would see things that I never saw in my household. When I began to question my family about it, I was faced with being called “b***h, c**t, whore.” That’s where the turmoil really started with my mom.
For more of the interview go to ESSENCE.