Hollywood legend Cicely Tyson, a pioneering actress whose career spanned seven decades, died Thursday at the age of 96, ABC News confirmed. A cause of death has not been revealed.
Following news of the icon’s death, celebrities took to social media to honor Tyson’s legacy and share their fondest memories of the beloved actress.
Tributes immediately began pouring in from stars with some mentioning how Tyson broke through barriers and influenced their careers while others openly grieved the loss of their mentor and friend.
Viola Davis, who played Tyson’s on-screen daughter on the ABC drama How to Get Away With Murder — a role that earned the late actress five Emmy nods — openly grieved the loss.
“I’m devastated. My heart is just broken,” said Davis. “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.”
Davis confessed that she is “not ready for you to be my angel yet” but said the legacy Tyson leaves behind makes her “immortal.”
Other emotional tributes came from friend Tyler Perry, who revealed he learned of the devastating news from Oprah.
“This one brought me to my knees! She was the grandmother I never had and the wisdom tree that I could always sit under to fill my cup,” wrote Perry. “She called me son. Well, today your son grieves your loss and will miss our long talks, your laughter from your belly, and your very presence.”
Oprah was another friend of Tyson’s who left a beautiful tribute, writing, “Cicely decided early on that her work as an actor would be more than a job. She used her career to illuminate the humanity of Black people.”
It was also revealed on Live with Kelly and Ryan that the morning show will air a posthumous interview on Friday, announcing shortly after Tyson’s passing, “Yesterday, Wednesday, Jan. 27, Kelly and Ryan were honored to have the chance to interview the iconic Cicely Tyson, for a pre-taped show airing tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 29. Tonight the “Live with Kelly and Ryan” team was devastated to learn of her passing. They have decided to proceed and air the show and interview as originally scheduled.”
To find what time Tyson’s final interview airs, search your local listings to find when Live with Kelly and Ryan airs.
Here are other reactions and messages from celebrities mourning Tyson:
Viola Davis: “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….because it was only in my dreams that I could see the possibilities in myself. I’m not ready for you to be my angel yet. But…I also understand that it’s only when the last person who has a memory of you dies, that you’ll truly be dead. In that case, you will be immortal. Thank you for shifting my life. Thank you for the long talks. Thank you for loving me. Rest well”
Ava DuVernay: “Your hugs I’ll remember. How your petite arms wrapped around me like mighty branches of a sunlit tree, strong and warm. Your laugh I’ll remember. How it came easily and heartily and sounded like good music. Your work I’ll remember. How your brave portrayals transformed the way the world witnessed Black women, whether they could accept what you shared or not. Your words I’ll remember. How each time I hung up the phone, I’d write them down so as not forget the precious jewels of encouragement and wisdom you’d gifted me. Your love I’ll remember. You loved me for some reason. You told me so often. I thank you for that forever and I’ll carry your love with me as I go. Bless you as you journey ahead, Your Majesty. Until we meet again…”
The Academy: “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.”
Bootsy Collins: “Dang we lost another Queen of the screen. Ms. Cicely Tyson (Dec. 19, 1924 – Jan. 28, 2021) was an American actress and fashion model. In a career spanning more than seven decades, she became known for her portrayal of strong African-American women. Job well done, Thx u. R.I.P”
Common: “I’m so sad to hear the news that trailblazing artist and cultural icon Cicely Tyson has passed away today. While she may be gone, her work and life will continue to inspire millions for years to come. God Bless.”
Regina King: “QUEEN somehow just doesn’t capture MS. TYSON. Her legacy has left an indelible mark. She paved a way that created a space for girls like me to feel the light. Thank you GODDESS CICELY. Rest in power.”
Zoe? Kravitz: “rest in power cicely. thank you for being such a bright light and inspiration in my life. i know you and grandma roxie are together now havin a big ol laugh.”
Whoopi Goldberg: “Tonight, Ms. Cicely Tyson ascended. She was a tower of power, a pillar of strength, CLEAR about who she was, and how she was to be treated… and that never wavered. she was in her 90s and just finished her autobiography. She said what she wanted to say… dropped the mic… and was escorted home by angels. My deepest condolences to ms. Tyson’s entire family, and to everyone who was lucky enough to know her. Rest in peace… even though we all know there are enough scripts up there to keep you busy.”
Marlee Martin: “She was a consummate pro and all class and I was so fortunate to have worked with her on “Sweet Justice.” But my best memory was traveling with her through Russia for a film festival, as she told us wonderful stories. Hollywood truly lost an icon today. RIP Cicely Tyson”
NAACP: “#RestInPower to legendary actress, film pioneer and activist, our beloved Cicely Tyson.”
Barack Obama: “In her extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson was one of the rare award-winning actors whose work on the screen was surpassed only by what she was able to accomplish off of it. She had a heart unlike any other—and for 96 years, she left a mark on the world that few will ever match.”
Michelle Obama: “What struck me every time I spent time with Cicely Tyson was not necessarily her star power—though that was evident enough—it was her humanity. Just by walking into a room, she had this way of elevating everyone around her.She was the personification of beauty, grace, wisdom, and strength, carrying forward a flame that not only guided her for 96 pathbreaking years but lit the way for so many of us. I’ll miss her dearly, but 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 like God intended.”
Soledad O’Brien: “So many great stories about Cicely Tyson! Whew: that lady was amazing. While shooting a doc on her in Spanish Harlem—people kept stopping their cars! In the street! To hop out and say hi! Old people. Teenagers. Middle aged fans. “Ciss-el-lee” they’d chant as she’d walk by!”
Oprah: “Of all the times and experiences we shared together, this was one of my favorites: The weekend of the Legends Ball in 2005. The idea for the ball originated because I wanted to celebrate HER, and other remarkable Black women who carved a path and built a bridge for me and generations to follow. What a joy to honor her and feel her receive it! I loved her hat so much, she sent it to me afterwards. Cicely decided early on that her work as an actor would be more than a job. She used her career to illuminate the humanity of Black people. The roles she played reflected her values; she never compromised. Her life so fully lived is a testimony to Greatness.”
Tyler Perry: “I was sitting at the table working when I got this overwhelming feeling to watch Miss Jane Pittman. I hadn’t seen the movie in years. I didn’t even understand the feeling to turn it on, but I did anyway. Not 12 minutes into the movie my phone rang. It was Oprah calling to tell me that Cicely had died. This one brought me to my knees! She was the grandmother I never had and the wisdom tree that I could always sit under to fill my cup. My heart breaks in one beat, while celebrating her life in the next. To think that she lived for 96 years and I got to be a part of the last 16 brings me great joy. She called me son. Well, today your son grieves your loss and will miss our long talks, your laughter from your belly, and your very presence. Always so regal, always so classy, always a lady, always a queen. Every time we would talk I would ask, “How are you?” and you would say, “I’m still here. He must have something he wants me to do.” Well, I think it’s safe to say you have done all you were put here to do, and we are all better for it.”
Billy Porter: “Legendary is an understatement when it comes to the essence of who you are! Thank you for your existence, your brilliance & tireless efforts to push the culture forward. There will never be another but rest well knowing we will continue to burn the flame you lit. #RIPCicelyTyson”
Shonda Rhimes: “She was an extraordinary person. And this is an extraordinary loss. She had so much to teach. And I still have so much to learn. I am grateful for every moment. Her power and grace will be with us forever.”
Rihanna: “A true legend!! Rest in power Cicely Tyson
Gabourey Sidibe: “There’s probably no better a way to honor Cicely Tyson, than by learning her story.”
Rev. Al Sharpton: “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.”
Yara Shahidi: “Heartbroken by the passing of the LEGENDARY, GRACEFUL, and ICONIC, Cicely Tyson ???? From her iconic roles and dedication to her craft, to being the first Black Women to wear her hair naturally on TV, to being my first movie grandmother and guiding me with such care … her impact is TRULY INCALCULABLE #RestInPower”
Maria Shriver: “ow, what a loss! Cicely Tyson just published her memoir this week! She told her amazing life story in “Just As I Am,” and now I am heartbroken to hear the news of her passing. Cicely was a trailblazer. A pioneer, a force, and an elegant women of class. I looked up to her, marveled at her! I’m so glad she lived to see her memoir published, just two days ago. Life is so frickin fragile… #cicelytyson“
George Takei: “Cicely Tyson has passed. She led a pioneering career in film, a remarkable feat for an African American woman born 96 years ago. An Emmy and Tony award winning actress, her career on screen and on stage stretched an incredible seven decades. We will miss you dearly, Cicely. RIP.”
Lena Waithe: So glad we got to give you your flowers while you were still here. Thank you for walking through the world the way you did. You gave us 96 years of class, grace, craft, and Black beauty. Thank you for being our reflection. May you rest.”
Zendaya: “This one hurts, today we honor and celebrate the life of one of the greatest to ever do it. Thank you Cicely Tyson. Rest in great power.”
By Megan Stone
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