Cicely Tyson, the groundbreaking actress, model and author who showcased Black excellence in every moment, has passed away at the age of 96. On January 27, her memoir, Just As I Am, was made available to the public, giving longtime fans the opportunity to learn more about her extraordinary life. In the wake of the news of her passing, fellow celebrities are publicly mourning and extolling her.
24-year-old actress Zendaya, who stars in the upcoming Netflix film Malcolm and Marie, shared her thoughts on the star’s passing as well, writing, “This one hurts.” She continued by saying, “[T]oday we honor and celebrate the life of one the greatest to ever do it. Thank you Cicely Tyson. Rest in great power.”
Yamiche Alcindor, PBS’ white house correspondent, wrote a thoughtful note on Twitter, saying “Thank you, Cicely Tyson for giving us 96 years. You were everything and more. Brilliant. Fierce. Beautiful. This hurts.”
Tyson was born in New York City to West Indian parents in 1924. She began as a model and then transitioned to the small screen for a 1951 role in Frontiers of Faith. She additionally played characters on the soap opera The Guiding Light and East Side/West Side, the latter of which she made history on as the first Black woman to wear her natural hair on a television series. In the 1960s, Tyson appeared in a stage production of The Blacks, alongside James Earl Jones, Maya Angelou and Louis Gossett Jr.
Her first film role was in 1956, in Carib Gold.
She had her big break in 1972’s Sounder, wherein she portrayed Rebecca Morgans, a wife whose family experiences extreme loss during the Great Depression. Tyson was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe award for her performance. She also had leading roles in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and Roots, a television miniseries which saw her take another matriarchal role—this time, the mother of Kunta Kinte. In 2013 and 2018, she was granted a Tony Award and an honorary Academy Award, respectively.
Funk icon Boosty Collins also championed the powerhouse actress on his Twitter account. “Dang we lost another Queen of the screen,” he said. “In a career spanning more than seven decades, she became know for her portrayal of strong African-American women. Job well done.”
Civil rights titan Rev. Al Sharpton expressed his sadness following the revelation. “Deeply saddened at the news of the death of Cicely Tyson. She was the ultimate actress, artist, trailblazer and role model. Nobody possessed her grace, intellect, and sensitivity. I’m blessed to have known her and bathed in her wisdom. May she rest in Power and Peace,” he said.
Gayle King, who recently interviewed Tyson on CBS This Morning, shared the full video of the exchange, simply saying, “Thank you Cicely Tyson… for everything…”
Musician and mogul Rihanna has shared her thoughts on the late actress, too, writing, “A true legend!! Rest in power Cicely Tyson.”
We send our sincerest condolences to all those who knew and loved Ms. Tyson.