Tributes quickly began pouring after news broke Thursday of the death of the legendary actress Cicely Tyson at age 96. Celebrities and fans alike honored her legacy and lauded her extraordinary career.
“This one cuts deep,” tweeted Levar Burton, who acted alongside Tyson in the 1977 classic “Roots.” “@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.”
Tyson’s death came just after the release of her memoir “Just as I Am,” and several interviews in which she spoke candidly about the book.
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
Oprah Winfrey praised the book in a tweet on Wednesday, the day before Tyson’s death was announced.
Tyson’s “iconic beauty may have gotten her noticed at a young age, but it’s her talent that made her the living legend she is,” Winfrey wrote. “And she’s finally telling her story. I read her memoir #JustAsIAm and now fully understand why she is such a treasure. What a life!”
Winfrey also honored Tyson in an Instagram post, writing, “Her life so fully lived is a testimony to Greatness.”
Tyson, who rose to stardom as an actress in the 1970s, is known for her roles in “Sounder,” “Roots,” “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All,” “King,” and many others — she was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2018 for her body of work.
Actress Jackée Harry remembered her time with Tyson while filming “The Women of Brewster Place,” a classic miniseries that aired in 1989.
“A pioneer,” Harry tweeted alongside a photo of the cast. “Many doors are open because of this very soul. Thank you for everything, Cicely.”
A statement from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center hailed Tyson as an artist who paved the way for many: “Trailblazer is not a sufficient description. What a legendary artist, sage and matriarch. We salute her. Rest in power, Lady Cicely.”
Zendaya said on Instagram, “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.”
The producer Shonda Rhimes shared a photo of herself smiling alongside Tyson on Instagram.
“She was an extraordinary person. And this is an extraordinary loss,” Rhimes wrote. “She has 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.”
As the tributes rolled in, so did moving photos of the actress. Stars shared images of Tyson from her days as a model and in several acting roles.
Tyler Perry honored Tyson with a video clip on Twitter featuring her acting moments, award show appearances, and even footage of Perry and Tyson together. Tyson acted in several of Perry’s films including “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “Why Did I Get Married, Too?” and “Madea’s Family Reunion,” and “A Fall from Grace.”
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
Perry shared an Instagram photo of him and Tyson in a fit of laughter alongside a tribute.
“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,” Perry wrote. “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.”
The rapper and actor Common tweeted: “While she may be gone, her work and life will continue to inspire millions for years to come.”
CBS’s Gayle King shared several clips of her recent interview with Tyson, who was promoting her memoir in the weeks before her death. She tweeted simply, “Thank you Cicely Tyson … for everything … “
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Char Adams is a reporter for NBC BLK who writes about race, gender and class. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Teen Vogue and elsewhere.