She’s 95, her melanin is glowing, she has an honorary Oscar, and her star is still on the rise. Basically, Cicely Tyson is an inspiration for anyone at any age.
In Time‘s latest “The Art of Optimism” special issue—guest edited by director Ava DuVernay—the Academy Award nominated legend revealed the exact attitude that’s driven her admirable decades-long career. One key thing she points out? The word “retire” will never be in her vocabulary.
“The reason why I have been in this universe as long as I have been is because he’s not ready for me,” Tyson told the publication. “When I’ve completed my job, he’ll take me away…We have to honor this blessed gift that we have. That’s what keeps you going. Keeps your mind fluid—your heart, your whole being. You can’t just stop, because that will be the end of you.“
The actress is currently a recurring character in Shonda Rhimes’ ABC show How to Get Away With Murder, playing the mother to main character Annalise Keating (portrayed by Viola Davis). But long before her latest work in her 90’s (!), Tyson earned an Academy Award nomination for her 1972 role in the film Sounder, appeared in two Tyler Perry movies, was part of the game-changing 1970s Roots miniseries, and even had a small role in the Oscar-nominated movie The Help.
That’s right: If you do the math, somehow, Tyson has found a way to make her mark in both film and television every single decade since the ’60s—and her age hasn’t stopped her. We’ll be forever grateful for her impact—and the way she’s paved the way for more representation on the small and big screens as a Black woman in Hollywood.
“Know that you will not be defeated if you really think positive, about yourself and the life you’ve chosen to live,” Tyson told Time. “When I made the decision to use my career as my platform, to try to make a dent in some of these injustices that I witnessed and experienced in life, I said if [I] just reach one person—one person—then I will be happy.”
Now that’s some inspiration to live your best life—and never let something like age stop you.