LOUD WHISPERS: Simply the Best

                                                  Tina Turner (1939-2023)

The scene happened half-way through the film. The female protagonist decided to fight back. Her face was bruised and bloodied and her eyes were barely open, but she got up after she was kicked to the other side of the limousine and jumped on her attacker. There was a deafening cheer in the movie theater. I looked around and saw that not only was the audience mostly women, many of them where on their feet, screaming and shouting in support of the brave woman in the white jacket. It was one of the most exciting experiences I have ever had at the movies. This was in London, late 1993.

 The film ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ was released in 1993 and was based on Tina Turner’s autobiography ‘I, Tina: My Life Story’. The title came from her 1984 hit song ‘What’s love got to do with it’ on the ‘Private Dancer’ album. I was not a fan of Tina Turner growing up, but I fell in love with the song. And when I watched the film based on her life, with the incomparable Angela Basset playing Tina Turner to perfection and Laurence Fishburne the disturbingly sinister Ike Turner, I adored the amazing woman who was born Ana Mae Bullock and became known as the iconic Tina Turner. Tina and Ike divorced in 1976 after almost twenty years together and four children between them from their own and other unions. In 1981, Tina Turner granted an interview to People Magazine and used the opportunity to break the culture of silence. Her marriage to Ike was like ‘living a life of death’ according to her. He beat, raped, humiliated, exploited and terrorized her throughout their years together. The film ‘What’s love got to do with it’ told the story of how this abuse shaped the marriage of these two black stars grappling with fame, racism and the pressures of the music industry in the 1960s and 70s. When I read her autobiography ‘I, Tina’ after watching the film, I realised that as hard as the film was to watch, the real story was far worse. Afterall, how do you tell the story of what someone endured for twenty years in a 1 hour fifty-eight-minute film.

The story of Tina Turner, the Queen of Rock and Roll is well known and available for study, so I will not dwell on her life-long journey of trials, pain, loss, fame, love and triumph. What I remember when Tina Turner comes to mind is that scene when her character decides ‘Enough is Enough’ and fights back. The experience I had at the movies was not unique to the audience I watched the film with. There were similar reports around the world of the same reaction from the mostly female audiences. Some of them reflecting the statistics of the 1 in every 3 women who suffer one form of violence of the other. The night Tina Turner decided to leave Ike Turner, she had only the clothes on her back and 36 cents in her purse. She fled, almost getting run over by cars on the highway, till she got to the lobby of a Ramada Hotel in Dallas. There, the kind manager at the front desk recognised the battered and bleeding star and gave her a room.

For those who work with victims of domestic violence, it can be quite traumatizing. You watch them get beaten and broken again and again, and sometimes, all you can do is stand by while they go back to their abusers for the cycle to start all over again. This will continue until one of three things happens. One outcome could be that the abuser repents and actually makes good on the promise of ‘never doing it again’. This promise is rarely kept. The second option is for the victim to hit rock bottom and then make the choice that they deserve better. That is when the victim can take the necessary steps to becoming a survivor. The moment Angela Basset (Tina) made the decision to whack Laurence Fishburne (Ike) with her bag at the back of the limousine was when she became a survivor. The deafening response to this can be interpreted as ‘Yes, I have been there and that is how I got out’ or ‘I wish I could do that. Damn, I need to do that’. The third option is leaving in a body bag. While no one seems to be open to this ending, sadly, it is the case for so many victims.

Tina Turner was one of the greatest performers of her generation, a true superstar who could sing, dance (backward, forward and sideways in high heels), act, model and sell out concerts around the world. Her legacy as a rock and pop star is secure. However, one other powerful legacy that Tina Turner leaves is breaking the culture of silence. Back then, when she made those revelations to People Magazine, there was no outrage. There were no marches in her support. There were no other women coming forward to talk about their own experiences. There was no ‘Me Too’. There was no ‘cancelling’ of Ike Turner. When Ike was interviewed about it a few years later, he did not understand why people would think it was a big deal that he smacked his wife around, after all they were a couple and quarrels are to be expected.

As the world mourns the passing of one of the greatest artistes of her generation, I hope we can use the opportunity to reflect on the fact that there are still millions of women living in abusive relationships. They might never find the courage to fight back. They might be clinging to the hope that ‘he will change’ till they get sent back to their families in a coffin. And even when they are prepared to fight for survival, they might not find the empathy and compassion they desperately need. I have watched the Tina Turner film many times, and it has scenes of heartbreaking violence and sadness. However, the one scene where I always cry is when Tina asks the hotel manager for help and he holds her hands and promises to take care of her. There are Tinas in our lives or in our vicinity. While we wait for them to realise that they can make better choices, we need to be there for them. Let them know that you will always be there should you be needed. And when they choose to rise from the back of the car like Angela/Tina did, we need to be ready, like the hotel manager, to do what we can to turn them from victims to survivors.

Tina Turner lived a long life, and even though she went through some truly horrendous times (apart from suffering years of abuse, she lost two of her four children) she bowed out as a survivor with many lessons that can be learnt for years to come. Brave, talented, strong, beautiful, timeless, Tina Turner was simply the best.  

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com

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2 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: Simply the Best

  1. Adegbola Opeyemi June 10, 2023 at 12:44 am

    RIP Tina Turner. She really lived a noteworthy life

  2. Maryam June 11, 2023 at 11:05 am

    Rip Tina
    Rest well


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