Maya Angelou turned a turbulent childhood into a life full of artistic triumphs. Although she started as a singer and dancer, she was best remembered as a renowned writer whose words inspired the world.
She also was a longtime friend of TODAY, where she appeared numerous times over the years to share her regal presence, wisdom, insights and details of her rich life. Each of her visits drew awe and admiration from anchors and crew alike.
“She was a great soul. Every time she was here she just lit up the studio,” Kathie Lee Gifford said Wednesday, noting that Angelou always remembered people’s names every time she came on set.
“We were all her family — she made us feel like we were,” Gifford said.
Angelou visited TODAY to discuss a range of topics, from lessons on motherhood to the importance of food in her life. Al Roker noted that he and Tamron Hall had the fortune of cooking with Angelou, who was admired for her kitchen creations.
“One of my highest honors was she asked for an autographed copy of my cookbook,” Roker said. “I was proud to give it to her.”
In 2004, she discussed her new cookbook with TODAY viewers. She revealed the role favorite childhood recipes played in her life and expressed disappointment over how families seem to spend less time together for meals.
"As we lose the time at table together, we lose a part of our souls," she told former anchor Katie Couric.
Angelou spoke with Ann Curry in 2008 about self-empowerment and what advice she would share with women on the topic.
“I love life but I’ve never been in love with it. If you’re in love with life, you’ll do anything to live, but there are things I will not do to live,” she said. "I won’t live at any cost, so you have to know that. You must know there’s a place inside yourself where nobody has to go. No lover, no husband, no child, no friend, no wife, nobody."
Tamron Hall said that kind of wisdom helped shape her as an adult.
“I learned the power of being a woman when I first read her words,” she said Wednesday.
More recently, Angelou appeared on TODAY to share her thoughts on motherhood, speaking about the lessons she learned both as a single mother who had a son at age 17 and from the two women who raised her.
Jenna Bush Hager, who conducted the interview with Angelou last year, called the time spent with the writer as one of her most “meaningful days.”