Amanda Gorman is sitting down with Oprah Winfrey to talk about the women who have inspired her.
Gorman became a household name after reciting her poem “The Hill We Climb,” at the President Joe Biden’s inauguration Jan. 20. The 23-year-old made history as the youngest inaugural poet, and has since been featured on the cover of Time magazine, performed at the Super Bowl, signed a deal with IMG models and has even become an Amazon bestselling author before releasing any of her works.
Gorman sat down with Winfrey for an episode of “The Oprah Conversation” Friday and gave credit to the women like Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and even Winfrey for her own successes.
Every morning of her senior year in college, Gorman said she “grounded herself” with the late Angelou’s inauguration poem, “On the Pulse of Morning.” Gorman’s ability to “connect” with Angelou goes deeper than sharing the title of inaugural poet.
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“It was an amazing discovery when I was reading ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ her autobiography and reading about (Angelou’s) issues with speech,” Gorman said.
Gorman, who also grew up with a speech impediment, said after reading Angelou’s book she was angry with her educators for not clueing her into the similarity she shared with the poet but considered it “a beacon” for her life.
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“I was like ‘I’m a Black girl with a speech impediment and no one thought it was relevant to tell me that this great orator that I’m reading had a similar struggle?’ ” she said. “Being able to connect with her and relate with that was a real beacon for me in my life.”
Another literary beacon Gorman credited was Toni Morrison who she says “liberated” her writing. Gorman said she wrote novels in middle school (quickly noting that nobody needs to dig these up) and her stories often included white or light-skinned characters. After coming across Morrison’s novel “The Bluest Eye,” Gorman said she was both “disrupted” and “liberated.”
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“When I read it, it completely disrupted everything I thought literature was and could be and from that moment on my characters got a lot darker, they got a lot more like me and I was just so liberated to write stories about my people and my community.”
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When asked how the National Youth Poet Laureate is managing all the fame, attention, endorsement and appearance requests she credited the media mogul sitting virtually across from her.
Gorman replied: “You gave me a great piece of advice, which actually now my team lives by, where you said basically, ‘Be weary of other people’s agendas because they have them.’
“We always say to ourselves ‘what would Oprah say?’ ” she added.
The printed copy of her Inauguration Day poem, “The Hill We Climb” is set to release March 30. Other literary works on the way from the young author include a children’s book titled “Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem,” and poetry collection, “The Hill We Climb and Other Poems,” both due Sept. 21.
Contributing: Hannah Yasharoff