She is a shero. The woman is legendary. Her work is intentional. EGL celebrates the iconic Cicely Tyson.
Although petite, Cicely Tyson is a powerhouse. Her acting career spans over 60 years, and continues to be a work in progress. At 91 years of age, Ms. Tyson continues to deliver compelling performances in film, television and on stage.
It’s notable that Cicely Tyson made her debut into the public eye as a model. She was discovered by an Ebony Magazine fashion editor for her stunning beauty which further launched her modeling status. Cicely’s career switched roles in 1957 as she segued to becoming an Off-Broadway stage actress at the ripe age of 33. Later, having begun work in small feature films, Tyson’s breakout moment came when she was cast for the 1972 critically acclaimed film Sounder in which she portrayed Rebecca, the matriarch of a sharecropping family. Cicely was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. In 1974, Tyson earned two Emmy awards for the TV movie “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman” in which she played a 110-year-old protagonist who lived through slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. These works projected her acting career to new heights and enabled Cicely Tyson to go on to earn a myriad of honors including Academy, Emmy, Golden Globe, NAACP, and other outstanding awards (it has been stated that she has almost 100 acting credits to date). In December of 2015, Tyson was lauded at the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony for her lifetime contributions to the arts and American culture.
Cicely Tyson is hailed by her acting peers, directors, producers and the world for her poignant performances and personal fortitude. When her body of work is examined, it is clear that Tyson performs roles with substance and value. She only accepts parts that showcase her as a woman of color with depth, purpose, and a strong message to present. Acclaimed writer, director, and producer Tyler Perry is observant of Tyson’s selection process.
“She turned down more roles than you could imagine because they didn’t lift or serve us as a people,” he said. “For six decades, she has been diligent in her pursuit to better us all.”
Cicely Tyson has given standout performances in various Tyler Perry film productions, and recently in Shonda Rhimes’ ABC hit show “How to Get Away with Murder” as Viola Davis’ on screen mother. On hand to celebrate Tyson at the Kennedy Center Honors celebration, Viola Davis expressed nothing but gratitude and admiration for Cicely Tyson.
“My friend, my inspiration, my TV mother…[she] motivates others to follow her lead and her dreams.”
She received her role of a lifetime as she portrayed Mrs. Carrie Watts in the Trip to Bountiful , the play and the television movie. Tyson had this to say about her part:
“I think, if nothing else, for me it’s important that young people recognize the value of the elders in their lives and to take advantage of their presence while they are still there.”
In honor of you this month and always Cicely Tyson, we salute you and value the path you have paved for us all!
By Tawana C. Coleman