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Maya Angelou’s heartbreak after losing out on a job with Pearl Bailey


As a single mother, Maya Angelou struggled to provide for her son. An opportunity to perform with Pearl Bailey would’ve meant a regular income and less time on the road, but unfortunately Maya was not given the job.


My mother had a chance to do the understudy in 'Hello Dolly' with Pearl Bailey.

as the lead. For my mother it would have meant living continuously in New York, without leaving me for at least a year. And it was regular money.

The director and the producer both loved her but Pearl Bailey came back and said 'Oh no, I ain't gonna have this big ol' ugly girl be my understudy.' There are very few times in my life that I remember my mother crying, because this meant she had to go back out on the road and find other work.

It was devastating because I knew all the sacrifices my mother made to keep me. 35 years later when Pearl Bailey was getting a Lifetime award, and they asked her, 'Who do you want to give it to you?' She said, 'Maya Angelou.' And guess who gave it to her, and never said a damn thing?


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