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In Memoriam: Cicely Tyson

We mourn an icon…

@TheAmandaGorman, your words remind us that we will rise, rebuild, reconcile and recover. Thank you for your words and light.” CT

These words were posted by the queen herself, Cicely Tyson, mere hours before we learned that she had died, showing grace and encouragement towards the next generation even in the midst of illness.

Tyson was often ‘one of the first’ wherever she went:

One of the first black models to grace the covers of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.

Cicely Tyson in Scott Barrie for Harper’s Bazaar, 1973. Image: Bill King

One of the first black actresses to receive an honorary Oscar.

One the first black actresses to be in the longest running non-musical ever on Broadway.

Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones in The Blacks

Tyson was, to put it mildly, a trailblazer. A name known in my household from infancy on. Roots and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman were required viewing growing up and Tyson was the icon to emulate: beautiful, talented, graceful, with an acting range that not many had.

Cicely Tyson and Maya Angelou in Roots

She could and did do it all.

She inspired me from a young age for many reasons but one of the main ones was Tyson was always unapologetically black, and specifically West Indian. There was never any kowtowing to Eurocentric beauty standards or trying to make herself look less than what she was. For me, a child of a British West Indian father, this was (and frankly still is) rare. To see someone who looked like me, who was doing the thing I wanted to do when I grew up, and doing it well

It was like someone lit a fire in me. If Cicely Tyson could do it then so could I.

I am personally devastated at her loss and only hope I can one day grow up to be as amazing as she was.

Cicely Tyson’s memoir, Just As I Am, dropped on January 26, 2021; she passed January 28, 2021 at the age of 96. She will be missed.

About belleburr (494 Articles)
Actor, writer, singer

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