Overcoming Abuse: How Tina Turner Changed Her Life

When Tina Turner spoke to filmmakers Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin for the 2021 HBO documentary Tina, she wanted to set the record straight.

Known as the Queen of Rock n’ Roll, Tina Turner was at the height of her superstardom in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Fans thought she had it all: icon status, millions of fans from around the world, and true love with her husband, manager, and band partner Ike Turner. But behind the scenes, Turner was swallowed up in an abusive marriage, a painful truth that she did not reveal until she began trying to establish herself as a solo artist in 1981. 

“I wanted to stop people from thinking that Ike & Tina was so positive, that we were such a great team,” Tina explained in the documentary. “So I thought, if nothing else, at least people know.”

In the years since sharing the truth of her relationship in People magazine, Turner opened up further about the ways in which Ike had overpowered and physically abused her. When he met her, she was Annie Mae Bullock, a vulnerable teenager from an abusive home and parents who abandoned her. 

It was Ike who rebranded her as Tina, and nearly two decades of control began. 

During their years as the musical duo Ike & Tina, Ike micromanaged his young bride, even withholding her finances. Strung out on cocaine, Ike reportedly beat Tina with a shoe stretcher while she was pregnant and burned her with scalding coffee. 

“It became a way of life,” Turner told Australian 60 Minutes in a 1993 interview. “I had put everything on hold because [my life] was just an existence of children being involved, debts  … Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.”

“Sadly, of course there are thousands of women watching this program in that very situation,” the reporter replied. 

“My advice is, make up your mind and don’t go back. Deal with whatever you have to deal with to finish it, which is what I did,” Turner said. “I was prepared to go through whatever I had to go through, even if it was death. Because I would never go back.” 

But recovery does not happen overnight, which is a harsh reality that both filmmakers wanted to show in Tina

“The trauma [of abuse] doesn’t just go away—that’s something we wanted to communicate with this film,” says Lindsay.  “In meeting Tina early on, we kind of became aware of the complicated relationship she has to her own story…What is clear in talking to her is that she is making an active choice every day to continue to survive.”

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