Maya Angelou Dead: Oprah, Obama, Beyonce Among Those Paying Tribute
As news broke that author Maya Angelou -- who rose from poverty, surrounded by segregation and violence, to become a force on the stage, the screen and the printed page -- died Wednesday morning at 86, Hollywood paid tribute via social media updates.
Oprah Winfrey, who counted Angelou as a mentor and a friend, released a statement Wednesday morning: “I've been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her. She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”
Winfrey's longtime friend Gayle King, who also knew Angelou personally, commented on the celebrated poet's death on the West Coast edition of CBS This Morning, which was airing as the news broke. King explained that she'd just gotten off the phone with Oprah and had called people close to Angelou to confirm that she had died. She also recalled a recent conversation she had with the author.
"When you sit in her presence, it really is like wisdom just flows out of her," King said. "She sent me, just last week … leather-bound books of all of her works … that she wanted me to have. And I called her, of course, to thank her … and she used to say that she watches the show. She watched this show every morning, and she was pointing out things that she liked and things that she didn't like, which is always nice … [and] which is always the way she was. She was always very true to herself about things that meant a lot to her, and I'm really grateful that I got to spend any time with her."
In response to a question from co-host Norah O'Donnell about where Angelou got her strength, King said, "From the time she was a little girl, she was always able to overcome adversity. And right until the time she died, she was always very opinionated, Norah, nothing, nothing scared her and I am so blessed that I got to spend the time and got to see her not so long ago … I don't even know how to describe how I feel at this moment, even though I knew it was coming, it's hard to hear, very hard to hear."
Mary J. Blige, Forest Whitaker, Kelly Rowland, J.K. Rowling and Ryan Seacrest took to Twitter to share some of the late poet's many memorable quotes, while Dule Hill and Piers Morgan posted the news. Singer Darius Rucker also shared his reflections ("Heaven has another wonderful angel") as did America Ferrera ("She gave me courage to love myself and others") and Pharrell Williams ("Her light will be sorely missed"). Beyonce captioned on Instagram, "Rest in peace phenomenal woman."
The Directors Guild of America also issued a statement on Wednesday in remembrance, with president Paris Barclay writing: "Today we mourn the loss of a tremendous storyteller, but we rejoice in the knowledge that her stories and images will comfort and inspire us forever.
"Dr. Angelou first joined the DGA in 1975, becoming one of the first African American female members of the DGA. Never one to shy away from new experiences, she went on to make her feature directing debut at the age of 70. The DGA had the great pleasure of honoring Dr. Angelou in 2004 at our African American Steering Committee’s 'Tribute to Dr. Maya Angelou: Master Storyteller.'
"On a personal note, one of my earliest professional directing jobs was helming an adaptation of one of her short stories; her provocative words and passionate voice continue to echo in my head. We are proud to count her among our ranks," said Barclay.
Still, among those lightening up the mood online was radio host Charlamagne Tha God (aka Lenard McKelvey), who noted that the endlessly quotable Angelou has changed his life in a specific way: "All these chicks going to be googling Maya Angelou quotes all day and realizing those deep words I text them in the AM aren't mine."
President Barack Obama also weighed in, releasing the following statement on Angelou's death: "When her friend Nelson Mandela passed away last year, Maya Angelou wrote that 'No sun outlasts its sunset, but will rise again, and bring the dawn.' Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time -- a brilliant writer, a fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things -- an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller -- and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking -- but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves. In fact, she inspired my own mother to name my sister Maya. Like so many others, Michelle and I will always cherish the time we were privileged to spend with Maya. With a kind word and a strong embrace, she had the ability to remind us that we are all God’s children; that we all have something to offer. And while Maya’s day may be done, we take comfort in knowing that her song will continue, 'flung up to heaven' -- and we celebrate the dawn that Maya Angelou helped bring."
Former president Bill Clinton, for whom Angelou composed an original poem on the occasion of his 1993 inauguration, said: "With Maya Angelou’s passing, America has lost a national treasure; and Hillary and I, a beloved friend. The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace. I will always be grateful for her electrifying reading of 'On the Pulse of Morning' at my first inaugural, and even more for all the years of friendship that followed. Now she sings the songs the Creator gave to her when the river 'and the tree and the stone were one.' Our deepest sympathies are with [Angelou's son] Guy [Johnson] and his family.
Quincy Jones, meanwhile, commented: “I am so deeply saddened about the loss of my dear friend, colleague and sister of 46 years, Maya Angelou. From collaborating on two songs on my soundtrack for For Love of Ivy in 1968 to delivering her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' during the Clinton inaugural in 1992, working with Maya always brought joy and love. As an author and poet, Maya Angelou’s ability to channel God’s voice and express the feelings deep within all of humanity will never be matched by another. She gave us words when we could find none, and helped us to see clearly when the light was dimmest. Maya would always teasingly say to me, 'Darling, let’s have ‘lurnch,’ and I will always be ready. I will miss her deeply, but I know her presence will always be with us."
Tyler Perry, who worked with Angelou when she appeared in his 2006 film Madea's Family Reunion, said: "There have only been a handful of people in my life who have moved me, inspired me, encouraged me and help mold the man I am today. One of those people would be Dr. Maya Angelou, she was a woman I called friend. Her words and her spirit are too powerful to leave this earth with her passing. Her legacy and poems will take wings forever, landing at the foundation of anything that betters humanity. Dr. Maya Angelou will live on in all of us who called her a phenomenal woman phenomenally. She is loved and will be missed."
Read what else Hollywood is saying about Angelou's death:
Saddened by the news of Maya Angelou's passing. A brilliant woman who contributed so much to the world. Her light will be sorely missed.— Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell) May 28, 2014
"Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." RIP Maya Angelou— LA Reid (@LA_Reid) May 28, 2014
"Nothing can dim the light which shines from within." -Maya Angelou.— Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler) May 28, 2014
"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." - RIP Maya Angelou— KELENDRIA ROWLAND (@KELLYROWLAND) May 28, 2014
My heart and soul hurt today because of the passing of a true Genious Maya Angelou. Heaven has another wonderful angel walking its golden st— Darius Rucker (@dariusrucker) May 28, 2014
"Just like hopes springing high, Still I'll rise."—Maya Angelou, a truly phenomenal woman whose words will serve to lift our souls forever.— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) May 28, 2014
RIP Maya Angelou. A great woman.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) May 28, 2014
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." - Maya Angelou.— Mary J. Blige (@maryjblige) May 28, 2014
RIP to one of the greatest women this world has ever known. Thank you Maya Angelou for all of the gifts and knowledge you gave us...— Russell Simmons (@UncleRUSH) May 28, 2014
#RIP Maya Angelou, who reminded us "Nothing can dim the light which shines from within"— Arianna Huffington (@ariannahuff) May 28, 2014
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." - Maya Angelou, whose words changed so much.— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) May 28, 2014
Maya Angelou has passed away. She was a great light in the world. I feel honored to live in a world she influenced and touched so deeply.— Cyndi Lauper (@cyndilauper) May 28, 2014
"I've learned that you shouldn't go thru life w/ a catcher's mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back." -Maya Angelou— Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest) May 28, 2014
Maya Angelou is my hero. She gave me courage to love myself and others. Her life was a gift to so many.— America Ferrera (@AmericaFerrera) May 28, 2014
Maya Angelou, a true American hero. A woman of uncommon eloquence & strength. The stars are less lonesome now, the caged bird is free.— rose mcgowan (@rosemcgowan) May 28, 2014
“Free Bird,” #MayaAngelou, has “dared to claim the sky” …forever… “trailing wisps of glory.” We will miss her song, “Phenomenally.”— Joe Morton (@JOEtheMORTON) May 28, 2014
RIP Maya Angelou, a national treasure.— Sway Calloway (@RealSway) May 28, 2014
R.I.P MAYA ANGELOU ..ANOTHER GREAT GONE ..BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN ..A LIFETIME OF UNDERSTANDING AND MEMORIES LIVE... http://t.co/Q88zSVVCVx— Wu Tang Clan (@WuTangClan) May 28, 2014
The beautiful Maya Angelou died this morning. A big and radiant soul, at rest at last.— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) May 28, 2014
Momentarily took the air out of me hearing you passed over. Then I smiled for you. REST IN GLORY MAYA ANGELOU. Luv!— Nasir Jones (@Nas) May 28, 2014
Thank you, Maya, for your power, your politics, your poetry. We need you more than ever. Rest in peace.— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) May 28, 2014
"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty" - Maya Angelou— Forest Whitaker (@ForestWhitaker) May 22, 2014
Rest with the angels, Maya Angelou. pic.twitter.com/iPNSvui8BL— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) May 28, 2014
"You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them." RIP #MayaAngelou— Nina Garcia (@ninagarcia) May 28, 2014
Maya Angelou GOD bless you and keep you. We will NEVER forget your inspiring life of overcoming all..... Rest in Peace.....— Maggie Q (@MaggieQ) May 28, 2014
RIP Maya Angelou. RT @DrMayaAngelou: Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.— Dule Hill (@DuleHill) May 28, 2014
I was thinking about her lately. GOD Bless the Soul of one of my heroes. Dr Maya Angelou— COMMON (@common) May 28, 2014
Sending my condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Maya Angelou!. #RIPMaya— Michelle Williams (@RealMichelleW) May 28, 2014
"If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be." Maya Angelou - who was utterly amazing.— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) May 28, 2014
You already know! RIP Maya Angelou...I hope you and James Baldwin are kicking it somethin special :)— Tetsuo & Youth (@LupeFiasco) May 28, 2014
RIP to Maya Angelou the Great http://t.co/LDVkg8DtYF— SWIZZ BEATZ (@THEREALSWIZZZ) May 28, 2014
REST IN POWER! MAYA ANGELOU!— MAJOR LAZER (@MAJORLAZER) May 28, 2014
Rest in peace to one of our generations greatest inspirations. Maya Angelou ~ http://t.co/XiRKiytLV8— Handsome Ass Nigga (@thegame) May 28, 2014
We will miss you, beautiful Maya. Thank you for always shining your light. RIP #mayaangelou— catt sadler (@IAmCattSadler) May 28, 2014
We will miss you so much Maya Angelou - our comfort, our inspiration, our Mother. Thank you. Video: 'Still I Rise' http://t.co/clHRhnjXfB— mia farrow (@MiaFarrow) May 28, 2014
All these chicks going to be googling Maya Angelou quotes all day and realizing those deep words I text them in the AM aren't mine.— Charlamagne Tha God (@cthagod) May 28, 2014
Hilary Lewis contributed to this report.