Cicely Tyson is being remembered by her entertainment industry as the iconic Emmy-winning actress died on Thursday at the age of 96.
The Emmy, Tony, and Honorary Oscar-winning actress blazed a trail for Black actresses over the course of her storied and historic career, which spanned over seven decades. Tyson was born in East Harlem, New York in 1924 to parents who immigrated from Nevis in the West Indies.
She was discovered by a photographer for Ebony magazine and worked as a model appearing in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar before transitioning to acting, landing her first role in the NBC television series Frontiers of Faith in 1951. Tyson made her film debut in 1957’s ’12 Angry Men’ and carved out a career for herself marked by her commitment to playing strong, fully-realized characters, refusing to play roles that she thought were demeaning to Black women.
After a brief hiatus from the film industry in the late 60s, Tyson returned to Hollywood in 1972 starring as Rebecca Morgan in the acclaimed film ‘Sounder’, that earned Tyson an Oscar-nomination for Best Actress in 1973.
As news broke of her death, Shonda Rhimes, who worked with Tyson on How to Get Away With Murder, tweeted, “I really need this not to be true.” She also retweeted Netflix’s message, which reads: “A force in her industry who opened the door for so many to follow. There will never be another with the poise, class, and talent of Cicely Tyson. Rest in power.”
A force in her industry who opened the door for so many to follow. There will never be another with the poise, class, and talent of Cicely Tyson.
Rest in power. pic.twitter.com/z9N72BLdUh
— Netflix (@netflix) January 29, 2021
The Real’s Loni Love also wrote. “My heart….#CicelyTyson.”
Here’s are some of the notable tributes:
I’m devastated. My heart is just broken. I loved you so much!! You were everything to me! You made me feel loved and seen and valued in a world where there is still a cloak of invisibility for us dark chocolate girls. You gave me permission to dream… https://t.co/7V7AFZtFLa pic.twitter.com/l2TLfM4weX
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) January 29, 2021
Early in her career, Cicely Tyson promised herself that she would only portray strong women. Harriet Tubman. Coretta Scott King. Miss Jane Pittman, and so many others. An Honorary Oscar winner in 2019 for her extraordinary body of work, she led by example and will be missed. pic.twitter.com/OLW8LGUhml
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) January 29, 2021
This one cuts deep. @IAmCicelyTyson was my first screen Mom.. Elegance, warmth, beauty, wisdom, style and abundant grace. She was as regal as they come. An artist of the highest order, I will love her forever… ♥️ RIP pic.twitter.com/69Awj7qI8o
— LeVar Burton (@levarburton) January 29, 2021
We’ve lost one of the all-time greats. RIP Cicely Tyson.
— Kemp Powers (@Powerkeni) January 29, 2021
The King Center joins the world in remembering the life and legacy of #CicelyTyson. Trailblazer is not a sufficient description. What a legendary artist, sage and matriarch. We salute her. Rest in power, Lady Cicely. pic.twitter.com/aLAc8HgrCR
— The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center (@TheKingCenter) January 29, 2021
Tyson made history on the small screen, becoming the first Black actress to win a Primetime Emmy for her work in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman in 1974. Over the course of her career, Tyson earned 16 career Emmy nominations, including 5 in a row for her work as Ophelia Harkness in ‘How To Get Away With Murder’, with her most recent nomination coming in 2020. Tyson also appeared on Broadway throughout the late 60s during her Hollywood hiatus, and won a Tony Award for her work in ‘A Trip to Bountiful’ in 2013. In 2018, Academy Awards she became the first Black actress to receive an Honorary Oscar.
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