When people say the name Cicely Tyson, it conjures up thoughts of style, poise, talent, and longevity. I mean, the woman has been acting for over 50 years and has racked up award after award. As a matter of fact, the veteran actress was chosen as a 2020 Peabody career achievement award recipient–at the tender age of 96.
The Peabody Awards, which recognizes individuals “whose work and commitment to broadcasting and digital media have left an indelible mark on the field and in American culture,” praised Tyson for her ability to transform “how African Americans are considered on and off-screen.”
The legendary actress, whose career has spanned more than seven decades, has already received three Emmys, a Tony, a Kennedy Center Honor and an honorary Oscar. Her last four nominations have been for Emmy awards for her role as Ophelia Harkness on ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder,” playing lead Viola Davis’ mother.
“Cicely Tyson’s uncompromising commitment to using her craft to address the big issues of her time — gender equality, racial and social justice, equity and inclusion — places her in rare company. And she did so when speaking up and speaking out invited stigma, isolation, and retribution,” said Jeffrey P. Jones, executive director of Peabody, in a statement. “She was a seminal figure of her time, and ahead of her time.”
Showing no signs of slowing down, Tyson shares three rules of life that she lives by, both professionally and personally.
I. Command Respect
Don’t demand, command the respect you deserve. Years ago, as a young actress, Tyson says she was asked to meet a reporter at a prominent hotel for an interview. “I came in with my raincoat and a couple of other things, and I went to the check booth,” Tyson says. “She took one look at me and said, ‘Oh, we don’t take these here, you have to go around the back.'”
Tyson says she just looked at her and smiled. “I said, ‘Excuse me, but I was not going to ask you to take my coat and check it, which is your job,'” Tyson says. “‘I simply was going to ask direction. But I will take this moment to let you know, just in case you don’t, that every one of us that look like me are not all in a position of servitude.'”
This is what it all boils down to, Tyson says. “I don’t look for anything or ask for anything other than to be treated like a human being. That’s all.”
II. Never Rest on Your Laurels, No Matter What Age.
Tyson starred on Broadway in The Trip to Bountiful as Carrie Watts, for which she won the Tony Award, Outer Critics Award, and Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Play. She was the oldest winner of the Tony after a 30-year absence from Broadway, proving it’s never too late to continue growing and achieving in your career.
As young professionals progress, they should keep fresh by constantly challenging themselves, trying new things and expanding on the knowledge base and experiences you’ve been. It will keep you relevant and ensure you have a career legacy that’s second to none.
III. Don’t Fear The Unknown
Cicely Tyson has always heeded her mother’s words: Don’t expect anything, and you won’t be disappointed. From her birth, Tyson’s mother was always told that Cicely would be