Groundbreaking actress Cicely Tyson has died, aged 96

Beyoncé, Rihanna, Zendaya and more have paid tribute to the icon

Cicely Tyson, a pioneering actress known for her decades-long career across film, television and the stage, has died. She was 96 years old.

Her longtime manager Larry Thompson shared the news via a statement to Variety earlier today (January 29), saying each of the 40+ years they worked together was a “a privilege and blessing”.

“Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life. Today she placed the last ornament, a Star, on top of the tree.”

Tyson released her first memoir ‘Just As I Am: A Memoir’ earlier this week.

Following a few film roles in the late 1950s, including a minor role in 12 Angry Men, Tyson captured the attention of the Academy in the early 70s with her groundbreaking performance as Rebecca Morgan in Sounder. It earned her the only competitive Oscar nomination she ever received, for ‘Best Actress’. However, she was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 2018, becoming the first African-American woman to achieve such an honour.

Outside of film, Tyson also made huge achievements across both television and theatre. She received two Emmy awards in 1974 for her performance in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and a third in 1994 for Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. In 2013, she won a Tony award for her performance as Carrie Watts in The Trip To Bountiful.

Many of Hollywood’s biggest stars have paid tribute to Tyson today, recognising her as an iconic trailblazer.

Viola Davis shared a photo of the two together, saying, “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”.

Zendaya said Tyson “one of the greatest to ever do it” and thanked her for all she’s done.

Rihanna posted a tribute of her own, dubbing Tyson as a “true legend”.

On the front page of her website, Beyoncé paid tribute by quoting Tyson herself.

Read more tributes below. Rest In Peace, Cicely Tyson.