Celebrating the legend Cicely Tyson

Celebrating The Legend Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson was born in East Harlem on December 19, 1924. She grew up in a religious atmosphere where the idea of becoming an actress was frowned upon. But as it’s said destiny has something else in store.

Cicely went on to become a pioneering Hollywood actress who was known for portraying strong African-American characters.

She was discovered by a fashion editor at Ebony magazine with which her modelling career took off. By 1957, she was acting in off-Broadway productions and went on to gain small roles in feature films before she was cast as Portia in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter in 1968.

She was the first black woman to take on the main role in the TV drama East Side/West Side in the 1960s.

In 2018, she became the first African American woman to receive an honorary Oscar and won two Emmys for her performance in the 1974 civil rights-era film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.

Presenting Tyson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, the then US President Barack Obama said that apart from her achievements as an actress, she had also shaped the course of history.

Tyson was known for turning down stereotypical roles for black women, she agreed only to play characters that were strong, positive and realistic.

News of her passing away came as a shock for the entire Hollywood industry.

“I have managed Miss Tyson’s career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing,” her manager Larry Thompson said in Thursday’s statement announcing her death.

No cause of the death was given. The former fashion model had a career that spanned seven decades.

“Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life. Today she placed the last ornament, a star, on top of the tree,” the manager said, adding that she died peacefully.

Tyson’s memoir Just As I Am was published on Tuesday and Vulture wrote about seven highlights from the book, including her accidentally hanging up on Mr Obama’s aide ringing to tell her she had won the prestigious medal.

US broadcaster and actress Oprah Winfrey after paying tribute to Tyson said: “She used her career to illuminate the humanity of black people. The roles she played reflected her values; she never compromised.”

Michelle Obama added she would “miss her dearly”, saying: “I smile knowing how many people she inspired, just like me, to walk a little taller, speak a little more freely, and live a little bit more as God intended.”

Oscar-winning actress Davis said Tyson had “made me feel loved and seen and valued in a world where there is still a cloak of invisibility for us dark chocolate girls”.

Singer Mariah Carey called the actress “a queen who graced the world with her beauty, strength and talent” while actress Jada Pinkett Smith simply called Tyson a “legend”.

Yes, Legend she was who stood her grounds and fought for what’s right. She never backed down on her beliefs as she left a strong legacy to follow.

“The moment anyone tries to demean or degrade you in any way, you have to know how great you are. Nobody would bother to beat you down if you were not a threat.”

– Cicely Tyson

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