Oprah Winfrey on Maya Angelou: ‘She Will Always Be the Rainbow in My Clouds’

Oprah Winfrey Maya Angelou
Timothy Hiatt/FilmMagic

Tyler Perry, Arsenio Hall, Debra Lee hail the author-activist as a seminal influence

Maya Angelou, the author, poet, scholar and activist who died Wednesday at 86, began her showbiz career as an actress and singer, but her larger contribution was in serving as an inspiration and mentor to key industry figures including Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and Arsenio Hall.

Angelou made several appearances on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” during its 25-year run, and she was interviewed by Winfrey last year for two episodes of OWN’s “Super Soul Sunday” program.

“I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20’s,” Winfrey said following news of Angelou’s death. “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.”

Tyler Perry echoed Winfrey’s appreciation.

“There have only been a handful of people in my life who have moved me, inspired me, encouraged me, and helped mold the man I am today. One of those people would be Dr. Maya Angelou. She was a woman I called ‘friend,’ ” Perry said. “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.”

BET Networks chairman-CEO Debra Lee noted the breadth of Angelou’s influence in arts and culture.

“Her light will always shine through her extraordinary contributions to the arts and to the very fabric of American culture. She was an icon in literature, an influential voice in civil rights, and an innovator throughout her life,” Lee said. “Through her 86 years, she personified resilience, wisdom and intelligence. She had the courage to confront issues of identity, family and race – and the compassion to create characters that resonated with every American. Her words have inspired Presidents and transcended cultures.”

Arsenio Hall conducted one of Angelou’s last national TV interviews via telephone on his syndicated talkshow. The fact that the show was willing to feature her on air via telephone is a sign of the immense respect she commanded, particularly among African-Americans.

Hall’s interview with Angelou coincided with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in January. She noted that King’s assassination fell on her 40th birthday, and she also had words of praise for the only African-American host in national latenight TV at present.

“I’m so proud of you and so grateful,” Angelou told Hall. “I know we’re really in the world of entertainment when I know that Arsenio Hall is back on television.”

Here’s the video clip of the interview:

 

 

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  1. niecy Thomas says:

    God loves me…when Maya said that I teared up….because I felt just that…and your not in IT.!!!what a lesson.this is SO…..good.REST IN PEACE….DR.ANGELOU….THANKS O…..

  2. Daphne says:

    I am moved beyond words. THIS IS A CALL TO ACTION!!!! WE MUST FULFILL OUR GOD GIVEN PURPOSES….SHE DID. WILL WE??????
    THANK YOU MY BELOVED….I WILL MEET YOU IN PARADISE…
    Your Spiritual Daughter Daphne:)

  3. DR. MAYA ANGELOU HAS BROUGHT TEARS TO MY EYES AND HURT TO MY HEART. TO ME IT FEELS AS THOUGH SHE’S MY GREAT AUNT, THAT WAS BLESSED WITH EXTRODONARY WISDOM AND SO FREELY GAVE IT TO ALL WHO NEEDED IT!! I’M GOING TO MISS HER EVEN THOUGH I’D NEVER GOT TO SHAKE HER HAND, HUG HER, OR EVEN GOT A PEEK AT HER! HER WORDS FED ME LOVE, MAY SGE SO SWEETLY REST IN THE ARMS OF OUR MASTER.

  4. Sorry op.im not a good text person but please let all know that she was one that will be remebered allways i m seen her once wiht my dad along time ago but i rember i was somewhere in noth corlina pleae contact me

  5. I luv maya and will allways. she will be missed in the rest of my life but op Don’t thimk she was talking about thre blacks what about the native that erverthing was taken from use and still to this day she was for all of us and loved please let all know we r all in together not just one race please ¡!!!!!!”!!”!”!!!!!! Love always

  6. Martha says:

    I love you so much Oprah that I feel the pain in your heart for losing such a friend Angela she was and continue to be an inspiration. I embrace you and offer my sincere condolences. May her spirit shine in all of us.

  7. Jane Adams says:

    I want to send you, Oprah my soul felt sorrow to you dear. This is a time of incredible loss of you, as she was Soul Mom! I feel your pain and know you are surrounded by LOVE both from those with you here and Dr. Angelou’s Spirit.

  8. Gail Bakken says:

    Oprah,
    Will the Super Soul conversations you’ve had with Dr. Angelou ever be available to buy on video?

  9. What an inspirational woman and gift to us all. Her life showed how to rise from adversity to accomplishment and her life story will continue to inspire and motivate people to achieve their own greatness for hundreds and hundreds of years. Dr Maya Angelou, be spiritually blessed in your rest

  10. Velma Ford says:

    I was blessed to hear her speak. She was royalty like, even regal as she sat and talk to the crowd. Teaching, admonishing, mothering us. I remember the statement, I might not say it exactly but, (….if you don’t have a African American friend… get one….) Speaking to a prodominantly Caucasian crowd of college students and others on a college campus. If you knew anything about her she did not tolerant racism. I Love her, she will be missed. I shared her poems with other young women to read. She was a role model for all especially black woman. A Phenomenal Woman, God bless her family

  11. Sharyn Allen- Mull says:

    Oh my goodness I am so hurt I never met her but always had the desire to one day.
    She offered a peerless source of knowledge, beauty and discernment.
    Dr. Maya’s oratorship, poems, advice so eloquent was an ascertainably message to the world.
    I can never express how much she influenced my life. I will always love her.

    Sharyn Mull

  12. Kathy Dearth says:

    You are vright.Oprah.She made a difference in my life,too!!!I will miss her.

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