In April, Tina Turner gave her final interview. Some of her answers on the subject of life and death have never been seen until now, and, on reflection, seem particularly poignant since her passing.
While it remains unclear if Tina knew she was terminally ill at the time, four weeks prior, on World Kidney Day
in March, she revealed to fans on Instagram that she had put herself in “great danger” by not taking her 1978 hypertension diagnosis seriously.
She wrote, “My kidneys are victims of my not realising that my high blood pressure should have been treated with conventional medicine. I have put myself in great danger by refusing to face the reality that I need daily, lifelong therapy with medication.”
She added, “For far too long I believed that my body was an untouchable and indestructible bastion.”
It’s possible that when Tina agreed to sit down for this final chat, she was facing the prospect of not having much time left.
Here, Tina chillingly revealed how she hoped to be remembered and explained why she had no fear around death…
When were you at your happiest?
I have lots of happy memories from different times in my life – with my sons, in front of thousands of fans around the world. But now, in my life with Erwin in our home in Switzerland, I’m completely content and happy.
What is your greatest fear?
I never want to go back. I fought so much through my life, that I have to keep going forward.
What is your earliest memory?
I was a tomboy when I was little and I’d always be tearing my clothes, messing up my hair. I didn’t care, I’d just want to play outside on my favourite climbing tree.
Which living person do you most admire and why?
I find great joy in seeing women define their own success and happiness. I joke that I am the “auntie” of a generation… Beyoncé is leading the way for female solo artists. Angela Bassett personifies strength to me, too. And Serena Williams, who is forging her own path with honesty and strength of character.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Deplore is such a harsh word! I don’t deplore anything about myself, but I am a perfectionist, and whether it’s the costumes in our musical (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical) or the décor in my home, I have a keen eye for detail.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Too many times I had people try to make decisions for me. The assumption that I needed that… was a big mistake!
What has been your most embarrassing moment in life?
When I was growing up I always looked up to Jackie Kennedy Onassis. She was very honest about her insecurities, which I admired so much. Years later, I saw her across a hotel foyer and couldn’t stop myself running over to her and introducing myself. I think she was quite surprised.
Aside from property, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?
I’m not sure. I expect it would be a car for my husband Erwin. He loves cars, and I love when we drive up to the mountains near our home together.
What is your most treasured possession?
Having lost everything at one point in my life, I don’t focus on possessions. As a Buddhist I appreciate them but have no attachment to them. I have wonderful photographs around my home of my family and friends, and they mean a huge amount to me.
Describe yourself in three words…
Honest, feisty, fun.
What would your superpower be?
Maybe all those solo concerts I did in six-inch heels!
What makes you unhappy?
I have lost people close to me, too soon.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
Nothing. Women are forced to look far too closely and critical on their appearance. Men don’t.
If you could bring something extinct back to life, what would you choose?
There are some beautiful butterflies and birds that seem to have disappeared which I wish we could bring back
to our surrounding wildlife.
Who would play you in the film of
Angela Bassett has already done that in film. Plus I have a team of my “Tinas” all over the world who are playing me
in our musical.
What is your most unappealing habit?
You will have to ask Erwin that!
What scares you about getting older?
Nothing. This is life’s full adventure and I embrace and accept every day with what it brings.
Who is your celebrity crush?
I always had a crush on Mick Jagger. I loved when we toured with The Rolling Stones, and I always watched Mick perform from the side of the stage. We both knew how to move around that space. And Bowie!
Which book are you ashamed not to have read?
There are lots of books I haven’t read. Until I retired there was never time. I’m trying to make up for it now.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wasn’t sure what was possible for me, growing up in the South. But I was only a teenager when I started touring with Ike, so all I wanted is for our band to be successful.
What is the worst thing anyone’s ever said to you?
Too many things, but I have let go of them now. I don’t hold on to anything negative, it only gives that person more power.
Would you choose fame or anonymity?
I wanted fame and I achieved it. I fought for respect. But now, I enjoy anonymity in my retirement and have no desire to be back in the limelight.
What was the last lie that you told?
I think if you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you I am if anything far too honest.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Switzerland has too many wonderful patisseries.
What do you owe your parents?
My relationship with my parents was complicated. But everything I am comes from them so that I suppose means everything. My mother had fight in her. And my father gave me the church.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
I have many “loves” – my children, my close friends and of course my soulmate, Erwin.
What does love feel like?
Like a dryer going off in your stomach!
What was the best kiss of your life?
My first kiss with Erwin. I fell in love as soon as we met, but the first kiss took a while and it was definitely worth the wait.
Have you ever said “I love you” without meaning it?
Not unless I was scared for mine or my childrens’ lives.
Which living person do you most despise and why?
What did you dream about last night?
I dreamt about our summer home, with beautiful flowers everywhere.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
You will have to ask Erwin that!
What is the worst job you’ve ever done?
I think my worst jobs were some performances I was forced to do with
Ike. They were not to my taste but that was how he wanted them.
What has been your biggest disappointment?
Life has had its shares of extreme ups
and downs. But I think I have reckoned with that, so at this point I don’t feel disappointment or regret. It was my
path and led to where I am now.
Tell us a secret…
I love McDonald’s. After the first preview of my musical in London, I made Erwin take a detour on the way back to our hotel where I was meeting my producers and director – and hand delivered them all a big McDonald’s meal! Sometimes you just need a bit of grease. With a good glass of red wine!
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I don’t want to look back at my past, I always look forward. If I changed my past, would that then change who I am now?
If not yourself, who would you most like to be?
I think Oprah [Winfrey] has a wonderful career, which she has defined. There isonly one Oprah! She is a very dear friend.
When’s the last time you changed your mind about something significant?
When I first met my producers [of the musical], I told them I didn’t want a musical to be made… I changed my
mind about that, and that was definitely the right decision!
What is the closest that you’ve ever come to death?
When I ran away from Ike I had to run across a busy highway without shoes, and barely dressed. I think God helped me get over safely.
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
I’m very happy with my life.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I achieved my goal. I wanted to be a rock’n’roll solo star and I was. I fought hard for that.
What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing. I sleep easily and I sleep late!
Would you rather have more sex, money or fame?
At my age… is there another option?!
How would you like to be remembered?
As the queen of rock‘n’roll. As a woman who showed other women
that it is OK to strive for success on their own terms.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
To never give up, you can never predict what is around the corner.
What happens when we die?
As a Buddhist, death means the end of this life, but then the beginning of the next one, which is where my consciousness will go to. I am curious at what awaits us.
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