Cicely Tyson’s Columbus connection: Native girl remembers display screen legend

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Columbus, Ga. (WRBL) – Legendary actress Cicely Tyson died on January 28, 2021. A Columbus local recalls her legacy and connection to Fountain City.

Carol Gertjegeders was just a child when her mother, Ophelia DeVore Mitchell, opened a wizarding school in New York City in 1946. Her magic school, Grace Del Marco Models, was a stepping stone for black women who wanted to be in the entertainment industry.

Actresses and models like Diahanna Carroll, Helen Williams and Cicely Tyson all started at Grace Del Marco.

Tyson started out as a model for Charm School before becoming an award-winning actress.

In 1955, Tyson appeared on the cover of Ebony magazine and wore an afro, which was unusual for black women at the time. The magazine cover gave Tyson the starting shot she needed for her acting career.

Tyson booked her first film role just because she appeared on the cover of Ebony Magazine. Although her career began, Tyson remained humble.

“She always showed respect, I remember that and that’s so nice because sometimes people try to ride over you when they have some kind of advertisement. She never did that with us, she was always very friendly and very welcoming and I really appreciated that, ”said Gertjegeders.

Tyson’s debut in her first film gave the charm even more attention. The actress continued her career, starring in over 27 films and TV shows that earned her countless awards. The last movie Tyson starred in was Tyler Perry’s “A Fall From Grace,” in which she played an old lady who was kidnapped from home.

Tyson made a huge impact on members of the black community, inspiring them with every role she took on. Before Tyson’s death, she was in close contact with Mitchell. The actress’s death surprised Gertjegeders. She says Tyson not only had an impact on people in the black community, but also on their lives.

“We were hoping that she would live a few more years, it kind of saddened our hearts and to see that we would lose her. She has also taken some paths that others can follow. Because it used to be very difficult in Hollywood to be in certain films at all, but it certainly opened the doors, ”said Gertjegerdes.

After embarking on many careers in New York City, Mitchell moved to Columbus, Georgia with her five children and remarried. In the early 1970s, Mitchell became the owner and editor of The Columbus Times newspaper.

Mitchell also produced several television shows, including her own, the Ophelia DeVore Show, which became one of the longest-running shows on cable television. Mitchell not only opened doors to black actresses and models, but also paved the way for modern talk show hosts.

Grace Del Marco Models School of Charm has closed, but Gertjedgers believes there is a possibility to reopen the school in the near future.