Maya Angelou was by any standards a phenomenal woman – she is best known for her way with words but she was also a dancer, an academic, a singer, an actress and even a cable car conductor.
The joy in my feet
There is a huge amount to say about Maya but let’s start with her feet. In her poem Phenomenal Woman she talks about ‘the joy in my feet’ and they clearly played an important role in her life. Music and dance were important elements of her creative expression and she performed calypso, African dance and contemporary dance, among others!
The power of positivity
Whether dancing, writing, singing or speaking, what makes Angelou’s life exceptional – and inspirational - is her positivity and determination. She faced many kinds of adversity, especially in her early life, but continually rose above these difficulties. She revealed her love of life in many ways including appearances on the TV show Sesame Street
. Throughout her life she encouraged people, and women in particular, to do the same: “While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.”
Maya’s memoirs make amazing reading and have sold in their millions. Real fame came with “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
” (1969), the first of a series of seven autobiographical books. Also celebrated for her poetry, she became known as the ‘people’s poet’ and published over 15 works of poetry between 1971 and 2013. Despite ill-health in later life she continued to be a prolific writer right up until her death in 2014 aged 86.
As well as her work as a campaigner and academic, Maya was an astute businesswomen who was open to all sorts of opportunities including making a range of products for the home as well as cards with the company Hallmark. She also loved to cook and published a couple of cookbooks with her recipes. She won a Tony and three Grammy’s as well as receiving dozens of honorary degrees.
The list of Angelou’s friends is like a roll-call of American culture. She met Oprah Winfrey
in the late 70s, beginning a long and important friendship, and going on to dedicate a book to her. She also knew and worked with Martin Luther King
, Malcolm X
, the Clintons
and Barack Obama
. Her energy and creativity were awesome and she continues to inspire and delight millions.