Reflecting on the life and presence of Cicely Tyson, words like graceful, elegant, and inspiring come to mind. She brought light to every screen she was on and room she was in. She took on roles that empowered and uplifted the viewer; from becoming the first Black person to star in a TV drama in 1963 with East Side/West Side; to playing her award-winning role of Rebecca Morgan in Sounder; to roles in The Help and How to Get Away With Murder, along with chill-inducing monologues in Diary of a Mad Black Woman.
As we reflect on her incredible 96-year legacy and the gifts she left us with, including her new biography, As I Am, her trailblazing in the beauty world must be acknowledged. Be it her braided crown at the 1974 Emmy Awards or her floral headpiece at the third-annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, she inspired Black people far and wide to embrace their beauty and hair; to be creative with it and explore different styles. She was a constant reminder that our beauty lies in our expansiveness, in our ability to express ourselves and shape shift. She encouraged us to pay homage to our roots, and shine brightly in a world that constantly aims to dim us. As Viola Davis put it in her tribute: “You made me feel loved and seen and valued in a world where there is still a cloak of invisibility for us dark chocolate girls. You gave me permission to dream.”
Below, take a look back at 18 of Ms. Tyson’s iconic beauty looks, from her Afro to her silver bob, all accented with lashes, fuchsia blushes, and of course, that infectious smile.