Fashion Reverie Celebrates Cicely Tyson

Image courtesy of Ala Midwinter

Television and the stage recently lost Cicely Tyson, the trailblazing actress who died at age 96 and appeared in more than 100 film, television, and stage roles. She was born in Harlem in a religious household and grew up singing in the choir. So, it was not unexpected that her mom was not very happy to hear her daughter wanted to become an actress. In fact, Tyson’s mother threw her out of the house. Apparently, the two didn’t speak for a while until her mom saw Cicely on stage. 

“There was no sense in arguing with my mother. What she was forbidding me to do I was already headlong into doing, with no intention of reversing course,” Tyson wrote in her memoir. Tyson added, “Mom had hoped to douse my burgeoning dream with her condemnation, prayed she could snuff it out with a stinging decree. But she’d inadvertently lit a match beneath me.”

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Cicely Tyson was a model first before became gainfully employed as an actress. Tyson got her start as a model working for the Grace Del Marco modeling agency, a black modeling agency in New York City. Later, Tyson was discovered by Ebony magazine and became a successful fashion model. Her sense of fashion and her connection to fashion remained and was obvious on red carpets and awards shows. One of her favorite designers was B Michael America and we could often see the two of at the events together.  


Her Daughter

Cicely Tyson was very private about her personal life, not letting anyone know her age for a long time. She was also very hush hush about her daughter.

 In her book, Just As I Am, Cicely discusses her daughter and their relationship for the first time. According to USA Today, the book reveals Cicely had her daughter, Joan, when she was only 17.  Cicely dedicated this book to her daughter, which is a very revealing title.  She wrote about their relationship “as fragile as it is precious.”

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Big Screen, Television, and Stage

Cicely Tyson’s first role in a television series was in 1951 for “Frontiers of Faith” and her first film role was in the 1956 film “Carib Gold.” Tyson followed those roles with other numerous small roles and finally appeared on stage at the Harlem YMCA in the 1958 production Dark of the Moon.” 

Stage roles kept coming! She was a part of the original cast of Jean Genet’s “The Blacks,” acting alongside James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Brown, Roxy Roker, and Maya Angelou which was the longest running off-Broadway non-musical of the decade! 

Tyson received her first award the Vernon Rice Award after known as the Drama Desk Award for her outstanding performance in another off-Broadway production, “Moon on a Rainbow Shawl.

Soon after, Tyson became a well-known celebrity. Once she was nominated for the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and won the NSFC Best Actress and NBR Best Actress Awards for her role of Rebecca Morgan in the movie “Sounder.” In this period in the 1970s, Tyson portrayed several strong black women in film and television, Rebecca Morgan in “Sounder,” Jane Pittman in “The Autobiography of “Jane Pittman,” and Harriet Tubman in “A Woman Called Moses.”

Other performances that should be noted is her performance in “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, “Fried Green Tomatoes,”  The Women of Brewster Place,” “Sweet Justice,” “Hoodlum,” “The Help,” and a recurring role on “How To Get Away With Murder.” And at the age of 88 Cicely Tyson became the oldest recipient of the Best Actress Tony Award when she won for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Miss Carrie Watts in “The Trip to Bountiful.”

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Cicely received several honors and was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and was honored at Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball. Many of us still have a crystal-clear memory of when Tyson was awarded the United States’ highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Barack Obama in November 2016.

Always happy, always smiling and always super stylish, Tyson loved ruffles and big sleeves, bright colors, red and purple. Her petite figure was always wrapped up in beautiful fabrics with more than few wise things to share. Cicely was an inspiration and she raised a bar high when it comes to being an honorable and successful, independent woman.

—Tijana Ibrahimovic

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