Although stars of reality television shows are unscripted and production is taped in the moment, many still believe it's as fake as it come. Between the bogus relationships and plot lines, the goal is clear, to find entertaining television. Those were the thoughts of gay actor Cornell Sewell, 29, when he started the process to be a guest on Iyanla: Fix My Life. Yet, he quickly realized just how serious the show was about genuine healing and therapy when he received a non-disclosure.
Gaye Magazine had the opportunity to get insight on how the production of Iyanla: Fix, My Life was filmed, and got an exclusive interview with Sewell who will be on Saturday, July 6, premiere two-part episode titled "DNA Dysfunction: Are You my Father" with his family.
The episode focuses on Sewell's father, Cornelius Sewell Jr., trying to reinsert himself back into his kids lives. Sewell is the only child of five who has a decent relationship with him. To make it all the better, Cornelius Jr. was the one who reached out to Iyanla for healing. Every family member had to go though intense therapy to be prepared to share their truths and to receive Iyanla's type of counseling on national television.
According to Sewell, throughout the entire process of filming Iyanla's counselors and producers were very hands on in making sure the guest were okay when things got heavy. They continued to ask the guest did they need to regroup and reassured them everything being discussed was focused on healing.
In this interview, Sewell shares with our readers very personal and traumatic life experiences in hope to help anyone who may have been or going through a similar situation.
Did your feelings towards Iyanla change while going through the process and do you think your family had a real breakthrough?
"For the most part I felt like she was doing her job. It's still television and entertainment so I understood her having to stir some things up to get the wild factors. There was genuine healing and when she hugged me it felt genuine. My twin brother, Cornelius III, had a moment where he wanted to almost fight Ms. Iyanla. In the trailer he was the one to say he was done and walked out. She said, "Okay, be done with this." And at that point I tried to run after him but she told me to sit down. As most gays, you are the support system that keeps the family together. I'm tired of having to reach out and be the glue.
Why do you feel your story is important to share with the LGBTQ community?
"I feel my story is important because of all the abuse and outlandish punishments I endured as a child. Individuals have been isolated, segregated or locked in questioning their self identity. Some have been pressured to come out of the closet or once they come out, they don't have a support system. I'm sure there are a lot of people that can identify with that."
Outside of the show do you believe therapy is something individuals in the LGBT community need or should seek if need be?
"Definitely! Not even with just the LGBT community, Black people in general. We have a stigma when it comes to seeking counseling. They be like, "Oh, I ain't crazy." It's not about being crazy, it's about having someone to vent to. Your friend's will throw some shit back at you and you don't need that. As a licensed therapist they're not there to point out your flaws. Their there to help you find creative avenues to get out of your destructive behaviors and find solutions."
What do you feel you learned most about yourself through the entire experience on Iyanla?
"I feel like no matter how old you are or what status you earn in life, you'll always be a student of life. You can always learn something. My experience on Iyanla was my first go at reality TV.
Everyone was in separate rooms, we weren't allowed to talk to each other. We couldn't even use our phones. They interviewed all of us separately. About the third time they pulled me out, I got frustrated because it felt like they were trying to paint a story. I felt like I wasn't being given the chance to say what I needed to say. Their favorite thing to say was to 'trust the process' and I had to learn to just trust the process. Eventually, they did give me the chance to say what I wanted to say."
Is there anything you regret sharing to Iyanla?
"I might be painted as the bitch but I don't think so because I was very supportive to everyone. When this episode premieres a few individuals are going to get their feelings hurt. I'm not trying to but people can't accept the truth. "
That last statement was to Sewell's aunt. He revealed that himself and Cornelius III were born crack babies. Their parents were never granted custodial rights and their aunt raised them.
"I thank my aunt till this day for taking us in because we could've been separated. Things were so pleasant the first eight years, but they changed once she started dating. There was no longer an emphasis on spending quality time with my brother and I. My aunt had poor dating choices and, clueless, one of the men she dated was actually bi-sexual. He molested me when I was nine."
Sewell and his Cornelius III grew up Jehovah witnesses. So, they were sheltered from a lot of regular life experiences.
"I didn't understand anything about sexuality. He asked me did I want to help him wash clothes, which was done in the basement. He said he wanted to show me a wrestling move. I didn't know shit about sports at that time. I remember me being tiny, laying on my back and him on top of me. It started off as grinding, and escalated to fondling, to him pulling down my pants. That's when I realized something wasn't right and I ran out of there. Eventually, I told my aunt but her reaction wasn't' like 'Hell No!' It was more so what did I do to provoke him and why was I there. Next thing I knew I was in counseling and my aunt told me to not tell anyone about the situation. All I remember from my childhood is depression and unpleasant experiences so I don't like to talk about it."
Sewell started to really live life at 17, the year he came out of the closet. That same year his aunt kicked him out stating it was for getting in trouble, but it honestly was because she couldn't handle his sexuality. He faced homelessness till his sister took him in and moved him from Springfield, MA to Atlanta, GA.
What is your biggest take away from your life experiences?
"I think my biggest take away is what I would tell myself when I was young. If I knew what I know now back then it probably would've helped me get through it all. It still would've been rocky but I would understand to love myself . I was still broken trying to pick up the pieces when I moved to Atlanta. I started engaging with men that didn't have my best interest at heart. I had to learn to move forward and to stop searching for love. When you have love for yourself, you know where your going and you wont fall for fuck shit. "
This is only the tip of the iceberg of whats all to be revealed. There is a paternity test involved for Sewell and his twin Cornelius III after their father reveled he had doubts that they were his. Tune in tomorrow at 9/8c on OWN and next Saturday, July 13, to get the full story. If you miss the premiere, the Sewell family episodes are Season Six: Episode 17 and 18.
Although Gaye Magazine may be known to bring you the latest celebrity gossip and news, understand we share stories with significant importance from all individuals in the LGBTQ community. Individuals who may be going through hard times, understand that you are not alone. Below are resources for anyone LGBT who needs help or counseling.
Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
LGBT National Help Center: 1-888-843-4564