In her new memoir, “Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good,” Tina Turner explores spirituality and her Buddhist practice and how they have helped her overcome loss, negativity and domestic abuse.
Variety caught up with the 81-year-old music icon, who lives in Switzerland, via email ahead of the the book’s release on Dec. 1.
First of all, how are you doing during the pandemic. Any message to readers about this time?
It’s been a challenge for me. My age and health require that I stay close to home. But that’s nothing compared to how hard this period has been for so many people who have lost loved ones or suffered from this illness, and even more who have lost their livelihoods. I am heartbroken for them. Here’s what I’d like to say to everyone: I know, from my own life, that as we go through adversity it can feel as if we’re stuck in an endless winter, and that spring may never come. But I also know that when we choose hope over despair, we can find peace, no matter what’s going on around us. Just as spring is inevitable, I believe that so is the end of this pandemic. I also believe this crisis can be a reminder to appreciate the treasure of everyday life. I’m praying for the good health of my family, friends, fans, and all humankind, and I look forward to seeing everyone again when we come out of this ordeal.
“Tina — The Tina Tuner Musical” opened on Broadway last year. What was it like watching your story play out in live theater?
I loved every minute of it. I still get chills thinking about the show’s opening scene, which depicts me as a little girl working in the cotton fields in my hometown of Nutbush, Tenn., and how far I traveled from there to where I am now. I never thought I would find someone I could trust to properly portray me onstage, but then came Adrienne Warren.
I’m excited that this brilliantly talented young woman, who lit up my story on Broadway and earned a Tony nomination for it, is now giving voice to my words in the “Happiness Becomes You” audiobook.
Do you ever wish you were still performing?
Not even slightly! I’m happy watching others perform now. There’s a time and place for everything, and this is my wonderful retirement time. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
So, no new music projects from Tina Turner in retirement?
Well, earlier this year, Kygo made a great remix of my song “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” which made it a hit around the world again. And, as I discuss in Happiness Becomes You, I’m proud of my work with the Beyond Music interfaith albums, which I’ve been active with during my retirement.
You have helped so many people by talking about the abusive relationship you survived. What does that mean to know you’ve helped others?
I’m deeply gratified to know that my story has served as an inspiration for so many people. If I can help motivate others to fulfill their potential, or to find a clearer way of seeing themselves, or in any other way help people become even just a bit happier, then I’ve succeeded in my life’s purpose.
You speak in the book about the stigma of mental health and that people should care for themselves mentally as well as physically. What can we do to erase this stigma?
I think people are awakening to the importance of caring for ourselves spiritually and emotionally with as much thoughtfulness as we care for ourselves on a physical level. It just seems like common sense, doesn’t it? But sadly, it’s too often not the case. Everyone needs to be in good mental health to live a happy life.
It just seems like common sense, doesn’t it? But sadly, it’s too often not the case. Everyone needs to be in good mental health to live a happy life. And if everyone tried to be more authentic about their state of mind, to open up to others when they’re feeling down, and to seek help when they’re suffering, I think that would erase the stigma overnight. The world would be a much brighter place for it, too.
Your new book “Happiness Becomes You” is calming, peaceful, and causes one to reflect. You say in the book that putting together a spiritual exploration like this has been a dream of yours for decades, but you held back. How did you get to the point where you were comfortable sharing this with the world?
Writing this story has been a cherished dream of mine for a long time, but the timing just didn’t feel right before. I wanted to wait until I was sure how to offer the most valuable insights when I knew I had something truly important to say. Now, with so many people in need of encouragement during this difficult time, I’m very glad I can offer this book to help uplift and inspire everyone who reads it.
At another point in the book, you encourage readers to create a mission statement for their lives. Do you remember when you first decided on one for your life? Have you since created a new one?
Yes, when I was on my own for the first time, after I got out of my abusive first marriage, I was staying with my dear friends Ana and Wayne Shorter. That’s when they suggested I create a mission statement for myself, as a guide to help me figure out exactly what I wanted and where I wanted to go in my newly independent life. That was very helpful advice, and I think it’s a positive thing for people to do. Because until you can articulate what you want in life, it’s hard to start the work necessary to achieve it.
Naturally, over time the things we want in life change, and so do our goals and desires, so you can update it as you evolve. When you create a mission statement for your life, there may be a big gap between reality and your dreams, and that’s fine. I think that’s how it should be. It means you’re reaching for improvement. Keep dreaming, keep growing, and never give up on yourself and your aspirations.
You also say, “By revitalizing myself each day, my life condition improved, and I moved forward within myself, even if just a step at a time.” What is that process of renewing yourself each day? How do you begin your day?
For me, the main source of my revitalization each day is chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That’s the most effective way I raise my mood and find clarity. It’s how I awaken my innate wisdom and spark my energy. Chanting is the way I’ve started my mornings for most of the past fifty years. It’s how I stay in rhythm with the universe, so to speak, and that helps me make right decisions and enjoy my life.
You seem at complete peace now, and your Buddhist practice has helped you with that. You talk in the book about negative voices in your mind, and silencing them. What were those voices and were you ever scared to address them?
Yes, as I mention in the book, the challenges we face in life often come from outside ourselves, but they can also come from within. When I was young, there were often negative voices in my head, echoes from the trauma of my childhood, that caused self-doubt and pushed down my sense of self-worth. This kept me trapped in unhealthy circumstances for a long time. Not only was it scary, it eventually led to me attempting to take my own life. But later, as I learned Buddhist principles and adopted them in my mindset, I was able to take back my power from that negativity and stand up for my life. Eventually, I silenced that negativity for good.