*Cicely Tyson was among the most influential artists celebrated by the Kennedy Center Honors recently, which saw a star-studded line-up of top Hollywood talent and Washington power players come together to recognize individuals who have made a significant impact to American culture.
Throughout the evening, which honored singer/songwriter Carole King, filmmaker George Lucas, actress Rita Moreno and conductor Seiji Ozawa, the audience was treated to everything from the classic spoken tribute to splashy new special effects, a fresh stage set, and, for the first half of the show, an absent president of the United States, as USA Today notes.
Tyson has certainly paved the way for black artists in the industry, and her Kennedy celebration included spoken tributes by Tyler Perry, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington.
“She chose to empower us when we didn’t even know it was possible to be empowered,” said Perry. “Cicely refused to take a role that would not better humanity.”
Davis, called the 90-year-old actress “my friend, my inspiration, my TV mother.” She “motivates others to follow her lead and her dreams.”
“Cicely Tyson does not merely act,” said Washington. “She soars. She sings. She vibrates. She is music.”
The celebration was capped when CeCe Winans was joined by the Cicely Tyson Community School Performing Fine Arts Choir for a performance of the hymn Blessed Assurance.
In related news, Tyson was featured in a “CBS This Morning” profile that was done in conjunction with her Kennedy Center Honor celebration. The profile highlighted her career, which spans 6 decades starting with her film acting debut in 1965’s “Carib Gold.” She also talks about her relationship with jazz great Miles Davis, who put her on the cover of his 1967 album, “Sorcerer.” The two married in 1981 but divorced less than seven years later.
“You know, I say no to everything first,” Tyson said, speaking to “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King in her old Harlem neighborhood. “I say no to everything because I always want to make sure that when I say yes, I know what I’m getting myself into.”
Tyson also confesses that over the course of her career, she has been particular about the roles she plays, and when asked about her process, she replied: “Either my skin tingles or my stomach churns… It’s very simple. If it’s something that I feel nauseated about, I know that I can’t possibly do that. If I can’t keep still and I get up and I’m walking around and I get to thinking, ‘I know that that’s something I can handle.'”
Cicely also says that after 60+ years in the business, which as earned her multiple awards for her work on the stage and screen, she has no desire to slow down now.
“Age is a number, okay? We have the greatest gift that we could possibly ever have… And it’s this temple, okay?” Tyson said, laughing. “And if you take care of it, it will serve you well. I’ve never been a person who drank, who smokes, who did drugs. Never. Because I love life.”
WATCH Tyson’s Kennedy Center Honors tribute: