It’s about time the Academy recognized Cicely Tyson! The legendary actress received an Honorary Oscar during the Academy’s Governors’ Awards, held Nov. 18 in Los Angeles.
According to CBS News, the ceremony also included recipients Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, publicist Marvin Levy and composer Lalo Schifrin. Tyson, who said in her speech that she is turning 94 next month, added, “I don’t know if I would cherish a better gift than this. This is a culmination of all those years of haves and have-nots.”
Tyson has been overdue for an Oscar, given her body of work. According to CBS News, her only nomination occurred in 1972 for her role in Sounder. During her speech, she shared a touching story regarding her role and how it connects to her Honorary Oscar today.
“45 years ago, I was offered a movie entitled Sounder. It was the first major movie I would have done in my career,” she said. “On the way to the airport to fly out here, I stopped by a very close and long time dear friend’s home to share the news with him. I said, I’m going out to Hollywood to do my first big movie. He looked at me and he said, ‘And you’re going to be nominated for an Academy Award. I laughed at him and I said, ‘And if I am, you will fly out and you will be my escort. I was nominated and he flew out to be my escort. The event was held on his birthday.”
When she received the news that she was going to be given an Honorary Oscar, she called him again to see if he would escort her one more time, but sadly, he was in the hospital, ill. He died two days after she was told about her honor.
“This is what you were promising me,” she said to her friend during the speech, “and I want to thank you.”
Tyson intimated that the award is the result of walking by “divine guidance.”
“It just lets me know that you have to have a certain amount of faith and trust and belief in what you do,” she said.
She also thanked Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg and her late mother. “I know you didn’t want me to do this, but I did and here it is,” she said to her mother during the speech. “And I know that for the longest time I wanted to hear something positive from her…When I did [The Autobiography Of] Jane Pittman, I called her up the next day after I got the recognition…and she said, ‘I am so proud of you.’ And I think if I had not heard those words from her, none of this would make a difference to me.”
You can watch her full speech below.