Maya Angelou with Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey/Instagram

Maya Angelou has died at the age of 86, and some may not realize the impact the poet laureate had on Oprah Winfrey’s life. 

On numerous occasions, Oprah has mentioned how influential Angelou has been in her own life, but the award-winning talk show host shared one key lesson during a 2011 episode of Oprah’s Lifeclass. Oprah described Angelou’s statement “When you know better, you do better” as freeing for anyone, herself included.

On Wednesday afternoon, Oprah posted a touching Instagram message about the woman she’s known since her 20s:

I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20’s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her. She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.

Take a few minutes to watch the video below, and you’ll truly realize Angelou’s powerful influence on Oprah.

Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.