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Tina Turner & Me
I recently read that you are the sum total of the five people you spent the most time with. I’ve thought a lot about that idea, and have since created a number of lists of five. The Fabulous Five who know me and love me just the way I am. The Five Fames—the five famous people who have had the most profound influence over me. Five Herstories—the five historical figures I most wish I had known. And so my lists of five grow.
Tina Turner died yesterday. I’ve looked up to her for so many years. Yes, for Proud Mary, Simply the Best (my favorite), What’s Love Got to Do with It?—the list goes on. I’ve seen her in concert numerous times. I think maybe five times. (That would be cool, right? Is five my new favorite number?) Every single time I saw her perform, she left nothing unsung, unsaid, or unperformed. She worked harder for two-plus solid hours than any performer I have ever seen, including the Stones. She gave her all. Each and every time. Perhaps that is why they call her the Queen of Rock & Roll?
More than that, I admire her grace. Grace is something that I’ve always wished came naturally to me, because it doesn’t. Tina Turner was in one of the most abusive relationships I’ve ever heard about. Ike Turner beat her black and blue. He had every contract put in his name and gave her a dollar or two when he wanted to. He gave her the name Tina Turner without telling her. She saw it on a billboard for the first time and asked who that was. He told her that he was the talent, and that she had none of her own and was lucky to have him take her along for the ride. She believed it and took it all. Until one day when she didn’t.
She ran across a highway to a Ramada Inn in Texas with a Mobil Credit Card and twenty-three cents to her name and asked them to give her a room.
She left him. Do you know how hard that must have been?
But here is the icing on that cake. She never focused on it, even after she went on to become the Queen of Rock and Roll. When he eventually died and they asked her if she was going to the funeral, she said, “I haven’t spoken to him in thirty-five years. I have no comment now.” Grace. Filled with grace. And, the perfect example of not living in a past that will eat away at your soul.
And then there was her friendship with Oprah, which always makes me smile. Oprah fell in love with Tina Turner when she had her on her show. She took her television show on the road to follow her and started buying and wearing Tina Turner wigs—even to bed. Finally Stedman, Oprah’s significant other, took her aside. “Someone needs to tell you that you are not Tina Turner and you need to stop, especially the wig.” Watch Oprah’s version here for a good laugh. She admired her the way I did—because of her grace, not just her talent.
When I’m in my lowest moments—and there have been some real lows over the years—I always put on Simply the Best. The same video every time. I dance and sing and try to rise up to meet her positive example. She lifts me up because it’s not just her amazing voice and the words telling me I’m somebody, it’s also her story. I thank her for years and years of lifting me up, making me a Proud Christine, and helping me to believe I can be simply the best.