Maya Angelou was a great many things, but Oprah Winfrey remembers her most fondly for being a mentor, and a teacher to others.
“I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister and friend since my 20’s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life,” Winfrey said on her website Oprah.com Wednesday hours after the 86-year-old literary figure was found dead in her Winston Salem, N.C., home. “The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her.
Also read: 21 Beautiful Maya Angelou Quotes to Live by
Although Angelou had written seven biographies, countless poems, won Grammy Awards, garnered a Tony Award nomination and even directed a film, Winfrey found the way she lived life to be her most remarkable quality.
“She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life,” Winfrey said. “She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”
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The pair first met in the 1970s when Winfrey, a local news reporter in Baltimore at the time, interviewed Angelou. It wasn’t until 1984, however, that their famous friendship blossomed after Angelou came across Winfrey on the street in Chicago and decided to say hello.
Angelou made frequent appearances in O Magazine, contributing poetry, recipes and making herself available for in-depth interviews with Winfrey.