Cicely Tyson worked until her death at the age of 96 on Jan. 28, 2021, and in a recent interview revealed her secret to living a full life.
"To thine own self be true," she quoted to a New York Times reporter earlier this month. "Do that, and you’ll have no regrets."
She explained that the concept is "simple."
"I try always to be true to myself. I learned from my mom: ‘Don’t lie ever, no matter how bad it is. Don’t lie to me ever, OK? You will be happier that you told the truth.' That has stayed with me, and it will stay with me for as long as I’m lucky enough to be here."
In a remarkably prescient interview, the late actor added that she was thankful she had her wits about her at her age.
"I have known a few people who lost it, and that to me is the saddest thing in the world. Because when you can look at your child and say, 'Who are you?' or 'What’s your name?' — that’s the worst that can happen to anybody," she said. "I can’t believe this medical science that looks at trying to give you more time when you don’t know who you are, don’t know who your children are, do not know anything. What’s the point?"
Over her long career in Hollywood, Tyson refused to take roles that she considered demeaning to Black women. Her example even impressed former President Barack Obama, who in 2016 awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the nation's highest civilian honors.
“In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, she has shaped the course of history," Obama said at the time. "Cicely’s convictions and grace have helped for us to see the dignity of every single beautiful memory of the American family."
She continued to speak her mind in her later years. In May 2015 when she was getting an award for her lifetime of achievement from the Alliance for Women in Media, she recounted being asked, "Now that you have made it, what else are you going to do?"
"My dear, the day I feel that I have made it, I am finished," she replied.