Singer and actress Tina Turner, 81, has had a career spanning seven decades, fifteen years of it in a duo with her ex-husband, Ike Turner, at whose hands she suffered domestic violence. Known for hits such as Proud Mary, What’s Love Got to Do with It and Simply the Best, she has just published a self-help book inspired by her Buddhist practice, titled Happiness Becomes You. She has three sons and lives in Switzerland with her second husband, German music executive Erwin Bach.
A lifetime can zip by in what feels like only a few turns of a kaleidoscope. I’m in my eighties now but I feel more youthful than ever. That’s because I focus on the here and now, and I appreciate each day of life. I’ve been quite mindful in my life and don’t feel like anything has passed me by without my attention. I wouldn’t change a thing.
You should never compare yourself with other people. It’s far healthier to strive to be a better person today than you were yesterday. If we all spent less time trying to get people to like us on social media, it would work wonders, not only for our own happiness, but also for the happiness of humanity.
When I was growing up, my parents moved over 350 miles away, leaving my sister and me behind. It was a difficult time. My mother was in and out of my life until I was 11, when she left for the last time. I waited for the mail each day, hoping to hear from her, but no letters ever came. Nothing.
My cousin Margaret died in a terrible car accident, just a week after she told me she was pregnant aged 17. When she died so suddenly, I was in shock and couldn’t believe it. Nothing had ever hurt me so badly as losing her.
Buddhism saved my life. In the midst of my most difficult times, including domestic violence, I started chanting and learning about Buddhist principles. Who knows if it was predestined, but I can say for sure that chanting came to me at exactly the right time.
My mother was in and out of my life until I was 11, when she left for the last time. I waited for the mail each day, hoping to hear from her, but no letters ever came.
Real human contact is far more nourishing than communicating on electronic devices. Even if we don’t have someone we can visit with right now, we can take a walk and say a kind word to a stranger who looks like they could use a friendly greeting.
If there’s one lesson my life serves to teach, it’s that encountering big problems doesn’t have to dictate your future. It’s what we make of adversity, how we use it to shape ourselves, that determines our success and happiness. I believe we all have the potential to overcome problems – and I don’t mean just survive our problems, but thrive because of them.
Could you imagine my career without “What’s Love Got to Do with It”? That was my biggest hit, and by far the most beloved and transformational song for me and my fans. But it was one of the songs I didn’t like when I first heard it. If I hadn’t been willing to go outside my comfort zone and do the extra work it took to make it mine, who knows if I would have broken through in my career.
When I was going through some of my hardest times, perhaps it would have felt easier to give in to quick fixes, like smoking, alcohol, or drugs. Instead I chose to look inward, to tap the wellspring of my greater self. My dear friend David Bowie, who had a lifelong interest in Buddhism, used to call me a phoenix, the mythical bird who rises from the ashes.
Growing up I never felt that I fitted the mold of what a “pretty girl” was supposed to look like. I was skinny – in my eyes, much too skinny to be considered beautiful. In those days, being curvy was the ideal and that wasn’t me. I swore to myself, some day I will have long hair and big hips and legs that everyone thinks are beautiful. It’s funny looking back on that now, because even though my wish came true, and even though I eventually became nearly as famous for my legs as for my talent, I still couldn’t see my own beauty.
When I was young, not much was expected of women, especially a “colored woman” like me. Racial discrimination was legal for the first quarter-century of my life. Those laws may have changed, but people are not as quick to evolve.
Living with Ike was a challenging series of ordeals. I suffered years of domestic violence, both emotional and physical. At one point I thought death was my only chance at escape. But it was not in my nature to stay down for long. I’d always find a way to get up and go on.
I was 49 when I met the Queen for the first time. It’s a long way to go – from picking cotton in the fields of Tennessee to shaking the Queen’s hand in the London Palladium.
Rock legend Tina Turner was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991
Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing Your Life for Good, by Tina Turner, is published by Atria ($23)