Soap Opera History

Cicely Tyson Facts: Celebrities Who Started on Soaps

Cicely TysonCicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson is a legendary film, theater, and television actress who has been doing amazing work in Hollywood for over 50 years. Tyson is best known for her roles in Sounder, The Help, Roots, and King. She has also been on a soap.

Tyson was also recently on episodes of primetime shows like How to Get Away With Murder and House of Cards. From how she got her start to winning a number of awards, here are five fast facts about the actress.

Who Is Cicely Tyson?

Tyson was born on December 19 in Harlem, New York City, which is where she grew up. Her parents immigrated from Nevis in the West Indies when they were young adults and her father worked as a carpenter and painter while her mother was a domestic. Tyson got her start after she was discovered by a photographer for Ebony magazine.

Soap Beginnings
After working as a model for a little while, Tyson began her career as an actress in 1951 but it would be many years before she would land parts. She won the role of Martha Frazier on Guiding Light and became the first African American to appear on the soap. Billy Dee Williams was cast as her husband, Jim.

Tyson has won three Primetime Emmy Awards over the course of her career. Her first came in 1974 when she became the first African-American actress to win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Television Movie for her work in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. She also won Actress of the Year for that same performance, and her third Emmy came when she won for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Special for Oldest Confederate Living Confederate Widow Tells All.

In 1972, she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for Sounder — against Diana Ross for Lady Sings the Blues. Liza Minnelli won for Cabaret. She was given the Honorary Oscar in 2019. In 2013, she won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for The Trip to Bountiful.

Thank You, Mr. President

Tyson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016, which honors civilians’ contributions to the arts and American culture. Tyson was awarded the medal with 20 others, including Ellen DeGeneres, Robert De Niro, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks, Diana Ross, and Robert Redford. President Barack Obama presented them with the medal.

Getting Personal With Cicely Tyson
Tyson began dating legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis in the 60s. They rekindled their romance in 1978 and were married on November 26, 1981, by Atlanta mayor Andrew Young in Bill Cosby’s home. (Cosby was also Best Man and gave away the bride.) The couple divorced in 1988.

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