Oprah Winfrey commemorated what would have been Dr. Maya Angelou’s 91st birthday on Instagram Wednesday and wound up having to hit back at a detractor who took issue with how the mogul referred to her mother-sister-friend.
“Maya would have been 91 today! This is my favorite picture of us. Even in death I feel the ‘unbroken continuity’ of her mother-sister-friendship referenced in the Henry Scott Holland canon 🙏🏽❤️” Winfrey captioned a throwback photo of herself and the late poet and activist, who died in 2014.
Winfrey then posted Scott-Holland’s famous death poem “Death Is Nothing At All.”
Initially, fans applauded the post.
“Those words couldn’t be more perfect.”
“Love it. This speaks to me this morning when my family is missing my mother-in-law, this make sense when nothing else does.”
“That made me cry it was so perfect and for me much needed to hear. Thank you 🙏🏼💜”
However, a detractor demanded the famed talk show host not refer to Angelou by her first name.
“Ms. Angelou to you Oprah. You have no license to call her Maya. She will always be Ms. Angelou. 💯⭐💪🏽”
It prompted Winfrey to reply, “she actually gave me permission after the 2nd or 3rd visit to her home to call her ‘Maya’. Believe me I’ve witnessed when other folk did NOT have that permission!”
That “permission” extended to a 20-year-old college student named Kim Watts who appeared on the talk show “People Are Talking” nearly 30 years ago. When Watts addressed the author as “Maya” she got a mouthful from Angelou. The clip went viral when it resurfaced on Twitter last month.
“First, I’m Ms. Angelou. I’m not Maya,” the icon said at the time. “I’m 62 years old. I’ve lived so long and tried so hard that a young woman like you, or any other, has no license to come up to me and call me by my first name.”
Back on Winfrey’s Instagram post, fans later jumped in to side with the “A Wrinkle In Time” star.
“am sure Oprah has a license to do so. Oprah has so much respect for her.”
“come on, you know Oprah better than that!”
“that’s Ms. Winfrey to you, sir.”
“your response missed the entire point of Oprah’s (Ms. Winfrey to you)s post.”