Cicely Tyson: Just as I Am

In Features by Samuel Love

On January 28 2021, legendary actress and model Cicely Tyson passed away at the age of 96. In a career spanning more than seven decades, she has become an icon for her portrayal of strong African-American women and was the first black woman to take on a main role in the TV drama East Side/West Side in the 1960s. Her influence is infinite, and her legacy is immeasurable. 8 days after her passing, Harper Collins are publishing her long-awaited and magnificent memoir and we can confidently say that it is an absolute must-own for film fans.

Titled Just as I Am, this beautiful autobiography obviously evokes a more emotional response in the wake of the legend’s passing. “Just as I Am is my truth”, Tyson says, “It is me, plain and unvarnished”. And that is evident in every page. The book is so intimate and honest that the experience of reading the book feels akin to the star sitting you down and telling you her fascinating and inspiring life story.

It is a work of immensely delicate passion, and humble to a fault – Tyson recalls how “blessed” she has been to grace the screen for all those years. The book is an absolute gift to not only her legions of fans but to those who are unfamiliar with her pioneering work and activism. The words here will inspire readers of all ages and backgrounds, and it has come at just the right time.

In recollecting her career highlights and relationships – her turbulent romance with jazz legend Miles Davis providing some fascinating anecdotes – the book is an absolutely mesmerising and endlessly compelling tale of Hollywood and beyond. Writing that she hopes to be remembered “as one who squared my shoulders in the service of Black women, as one who made us walk taller and envision greater for ourselves” and that she “did the very best that I could with what God gave me —  just as I am”, the book certainly reminds us that she achieved both of those wishes and has, in the wake of her passing, gotten her wish. She will always be remembered in these ways and more, and celebrated eternally as a true icon of the screen. 

Just as I Am is a poignant and endlessly compelling book that could just earn its place on the best autobiographies of modern literature. Packed with inspiring messages, fascinating Hollywood insight and an emotional wallop in its timely release, Just as I Am is a masterpiece of its genre.

Just as I Am by Cicely Tyson is available February 4 from Harper Collins with an RRP of £20.00