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  • Jonathan Widran

TIFFANY BYNOE, "Made Extraordinary M.E." (Book Review)

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of my embrace and appreciation of and passion and respect for Tiffany Bynoe’s spiritually driven self-empowerment book “M.E. Made Extraordinary” is the fact that she didn’t write it someone like me in mind – yet its stark emotional honesty, hard won wisdom and advice as to how to overcome long ingrained negative thoughts and self-perceptions and endless series of positive affirmations are truths I can, should and must live by as well.

Time and again, the internationally renowned R&B, gospel and contemporary jazz singer/songwriter – who has been a constant presence on the charts since her debut single “Seasons hit Billboard’s Gospel Airplay chart in 2016 – refers to cultural and historical touchstones of the African-American experience, starting with her love for Diana Ross and “The Wiz” and, to make a point about the courage to overcome, an impactful mention of “our struggle” and the march from Selma to Montgomery.

She also mentions the fact that she grew up seeing herself as an “ugly duckling” when she looked in the mirror” (something women can certainly relate to more than men), being compared growing up to other singers and beautiful girls growing up, that it’s okay to “color your hair or wear a different hairstyle,” wear high heels or have plastic surgery to take care of one’s outer appearance.

Being white and male, however, is no hindrance to me feeling excited, uplifted, inspired and resolved – and not only because I have been a fan of Tiffany’s for years and have written many reviews, bios, press releases and articles on her during that time. Quite simply, it’s because – she had me at “The Wiz.” I have fond memories of the musical and its film version starring Ms. Ross and Michael Jackson as well, and found myself hooked when, not long after her thoughtful introduction to the M.E. Made Extraordinary concept, she titled her first chapter “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”….Back to You.” Growing up in Akron, Ohio, “The Wiz” was like a lifeline of hope for Tiffany – and she uses the incredible metaphors of the timeless “Oz” stories to introduce the essential journey of her book, which draws from her own story of overcoming, redemption and revised self-imaging to help the reader sojourn along that same challenging but ultimately beautiful and triumphant path.

Just as “The Wiz” allowed her to dream that her innate vocal talents could someday impact the world as Ms. Ross and Natalie Cole were doing, she also learned a lot from Dorothy’s unique journey with the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion that now find its way into the process of discovering M.E. They are simple but timeless truths about life: To get anywhere you need to keep moving forward, No one travels alone and – greatest of all – the answers are all within ourselves. Since the key conceptual song from “The Wiz” is “Home” (Tiffany even quotes lyrics in the book), she gets to the heart of everything in her life and explains what “home” means to her: “One of the ways I find home is through God.”

For her, everything she is, has become and will become in the future is rooted in her strong Christian faith. Understanding that some of her readers may be of a different faith tradition or secular, she acknowledges the importance of belief – if not in a Higher Power, then other forces at work in the Universe, belief in oneself and one’s purpose. I think the heart of everything Tiffany imparts in these pages is summed up nicely in this single resonant line: “You may follow a different faith, or no faith at all. That does not make any of the lessons of this book less true. The fact is: We are all made extraordinary.”

Also of great importance to the breakthroughs she believes anyone can experience is this: “I came to see myself as God saw me, as a person of value and talent. As someone who was Made Extraordinary.” In this day and age where people sometimes fear expressing their spiritual path for fear of offending others, it’s courageous and refreshing to see Tiffany so boldly expressing where her talent, self-worth, inner fire and hope and “mountain moving faith” comes from.

She’s not preaching the Gospel directly, but those who are not of faith may be prompted to think about God because of the eloquence Tiffany uses in expressing the difference God has made in her life. Who can find fault with a whimsical spiritual line like “Your testimony and journey are God’s bestseller?” And “True beauty in a woman is reflected through her soul”? I’m a guy and I’m on board with all of this – and there’s little doubt, should you bless yourself with reading ME, you will be too - no matter your race or gender.

Also important is the way Tiffany weaves in elements of her autobiography here and there to let the reader know that she’s already traveling on the path she hopes others will follow. We learn about some difficult family issues, the inspiration offered by her uncle, Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Howard Hewett, and some of the tough choices presented to her when she got pregnant just as her star was initially ascending n the business. And those crippling insecurities that happened because she listened to others who didn’t believe in her talent and destiny. This kind of honestly, combined with expressions of deep faith, key elements of “The Mirror Technique” related to the Law of Attraction and a wave of soul-invigorating affirmations and self-reflective questions at the end of each chapter (remember there is power in the tongue!) make ME Made Extraordinary a self-empowerment book for the ages.

“I sincerely believe this book will will build up and help others with self-love, mental heath and in affirming their unique identity and how God feels about them and the love He has for them,” Tiffany says. Life’s pressures, fully illuminated during the pandemic era, are very hard on people, and I’m hopeful that my music can bring soothing, romantic joy to people and get them ready for the book to heal anything within them. My spiritual journey will continue through all my days on earth, and God will always be the center of anything I do, say and sing. M.E. is my way of stepping into my responsibility as an artist and human being and sharing love that can be multiplied to lift the spirits of those who are hurt, broken and confused – just like the fabled yellow brick road and an addict’s steps to recovery.”


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