Maya Angelou – A Phenomenal Woman



One of the most influential black voices in the world, Marguerite Ann Angelou (nee Johnson) commonly known as Maya Angelou, passed away on 28th May 2014. The world mourns this icon and celebrates her string of achievements, which include working with both Malcom X and Dr Martin Luther King Jr before their assassinations in the fight for black American civil rights for most of her 86 year long life.

Born in 1928, she overcame hardships such as childhood molestation and abuse to emerge as one of the strongest voices with great impact on the day to day lives of people from across many generations. One of her greatest strides against racism was the fact that hers was the first African American script that was written by a woman to be filmed, and was later nominated for a Pulitzer prize.

She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, and has received 3 Grammy Awards. She has published seven autobiographies, over 50 poems, books and short stories on themes such as racism, identity, family, and travel. Here is one of her most recognizable poems, written to inspire women across the world regardless of age or race. Enjoy!


Phenomenal Woman, by Maya Angelou.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.

I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size

But when I start to tell them,

They think I’m telling lies.

I say,

It’s in the reach of my arms,

The span of my hips,

The stride of my step,

The curl of my lips.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.


I walk into a room

Just as cool as you please,

And to a man,

The fellows stand or

Fall down on their knees.

Then they swarm around me,

A hive of honey bees.

I say,

It’s the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I’m a woman



Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.


Men themselves have wondered

What they see in me.

They try so much

But they can’t touch

My inner mystery.

When I try to show them,

They say they still can’t see.

I say,

It’s in the arch of my back,

The sun of my smile,

The ride of my breasts,

The grace of my style.

I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.


Now you understand

Just why my head’s not bowed.

I don’t shout or jump about

Or have to talk real loud.

When you see me passing,

It ought to make you proud.

I say,

It’s in the click of my heels,

The bend of my hair,

the palm of my hand,

The need for my care.

’Cause I’m a woman


Phenomenal woman,

That’s me.



From And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.

Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (Random House Inc., 1994)




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