Oprah Winfrey Remembers Her "Mentor" Maya Angelou

By Colin Bertram
|  Wednesday, May 28, 2014  |  Updated 3:59 PM CDT
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    Oprah Winfrey is saying goodbye to her "mentor, mother/sister, and friend" Maya Angelou.

    In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Winfrey said the woman she has known since her 20's was "there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life."

    Angelou, the acclaimed author and poet, died Wednesday morning at age 86.

    Winfrey noted the world knew Angelou 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."

    In her statement, Winfrey chronicled some of Angelou's many achievements — Grammy-winner, linguist, presidential inauguration performer — but said that what stands out to her most "is not what she has done or written or spoken, it's how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakable 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."

    Winfrey called her friend "one of the greatest influences in my life." Angelou was a guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 2004 and 2011, and appeared on two episodes of OWN's "Super Soul Sunday" with Winfrey in 2013.

    "I was a black girl, just like Maya Angelou," Winfrey recalled in a 2011 video (below) of discovering the writer as child. "Growing up in the church, being raised by my grandmother. ... Imagine growing up and getting to become friends — not just friends: sister, daughter, mentor — to Maya Angelou. Unimaginable."

    The media mogul has said she read Angelou's "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" more times than she knows - all before reaching adulthood.

    In the Oprah.com video, Winfrey remembers the first time she visited Angelou ("the biggest rock star in the world to me!") at the poet's home. Angelou cooked her a meal and read Winfrey poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first nationally recognized African-American poet.

    It was at that meeting, as Winfrey spoke of mistakes she had made while in her 20's, that Angelou imparted words of wisdom that had a profound effect on the broadcaster. "That was in your 20's, and now you're in your 30's," Winfrey recounts Angelou saying, "When you know better, you do better."

    Taken as "one of the great lessons of my life," Winfrey loved the advice so much she continues to relay the wisdom both in her private and public lives.

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