Renowned poet, actress, and activist Maya Angelou has passed away at the age of 86.

Dr. Angelou influenced some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities and major world leaders, none more so than Oprah Winfrey.

For decades, Oprah has affectionately called Angelou her “mother, sister, friend.”

I had the honor of interviewing Oprah in August of last year for The Butler, and she opened up about how Angelou helped to define her legacy:

I remember when I opened my school in South Africa and I said to Maya Angelou, ‘Gee this will be my legacy.’ And Maya in her Maya way said, ‘You have no idea what your legacy will be. Your legacy is what you do everyday. Your legacy is every life you’ve touched, every person whose life was either moved or not. It’s every person you’ve harmed or helped, that’s your legacy.’ I don’t think about it. I just try to live it.

Oprah also released a statement to NBC News today on Dr. Angelou’s passing:

“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. 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.

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. 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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