Was Maya Angelou’s Past As A Sex Worker ‘Guarded’?

maya angelou and langston hughes
A young, beautiful Maya Angelou with Langston Hughes, not long after her career as a sex worker

*Dr. Maya Angelou was as fine as they come in her youth. In the photo above, writer Langston Hughes was just one of a whole lot of dudes anxious to be in her company.  Always introduced with the greatest respect, whether in the presence of dignitaries such as Bill Clinton or Barack Obama; or the Hollywood elite such as Oprah Winfrey or Tyler Perry, when Maya Angelou spoke in that slow, studied, and deliberate manner – her voice alone demanded to be listened to;  and her wisdom was never questioned.

Dr. Angelou was lauded as the epitome of what every woman should aspire to emulate in life: a best selling author, accomplished speaker sought after by presidents and other dignitaries, a spiritual mother to all, and a mentor and best friend to the one and only Oprah Winfrey.

Her passing on May 28 at the age of 86 shocked the world and the author of “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” garnered such an outpouring of grief that the top trending hashtag honored her as it read #ripmayaangelou.

But it is surprising that one aspect of this magnificent black woman’s life has been so downplayed. The fact that she once worked in the sex industry seems to remain a guarded secret as the history of her life is now put on display.

Were it anyone else, this area of employment would most likely be a big deal, but anyone else is not Maya Angelou.

Dr. Angelou herself says she was never ashamed. She had her reasons for making sure that young people in particular knew about her work as a prostitute.

I wrote about my experiences because I thought too many people tell young folks, “I never did anything wrong. Who, Moi? – never I. I have no skeletons in my closet. In fact, I have no closet.” They lie like that and then young people find themselves in situations and they think, “Damn I must be a pretty bad guy. My mom or dad never did anything wrong.” They can’t forgive themselves and go on with their lives. So I wrote the book Gather Together in My Name [about her past as a sex worker]. [source]

Angelou was said to have had compassion for those in the sex industry and never looked down on them, and she refused to be intimidated by invasive and obnoxious questioning about it.

Some call the downplay of Angelou’s role in this industry nothing more than “respectability politics,” and say the fact that the media has focused so little on this aspect of life speaks more to its shame of the work than Maya Angelou’s.

According toTits and Sass:

Respectability politics no doubt play a role in the erasure of her history as a sex worker. With a wide brush, details on it have been painted over by those who won’t acknowledge such a thing, brushing past it to talk about her awards and accolades. But she had no problem stating plainly: “There are many ways to prostitute one’s self.”

It comes to this: there is no way, in the minds of most people, to have worked as a prostitute and not be ashamed of it. Most people believe there is no way to have held this job (and it is a job), move onto other things, and not consider it a “seamy life” or “shameful secret.” To most people, there is no way a woman of Maya Angelou’s caliber could ever have performed as a sex worker. The idea just won’t gel for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the truth.

Read the original story at Tits and Sass.com

6 thoughts on “Was Maya Angelou’s Past As A Sex Worker ‘Guarded’?”

  1. Rest in peace Miss Angelou. I don’t care about this facet of your life. You moved beyond it and did great things with your life. God bless you. My condolences to your family and friends.

  2. Shame on you for bring up that part of her life instead of the wonderful things that she has accomplished but I guess dirt sells. Shame on you!!!!

  3. People who go to the graveyard and dig up the past indiscretions of other`s are covered with maggots. That`s what`s in the grave. So the next time you want to dig up somebody else`s buried past, just remember that you`ll end up covered in filth too. You may feel like you have achieved something worth revealing to itching ears but, now YOU need a bath.

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