Are Cicely Tyson and Kimberly Elise Related?

Cicely Tyson died on Jan. 28, 2021. When she died, the actor left behind a legacy of TV shows and films, including Sounder, Roots, and The Help. Just two days before her death, she released her memoir, Just As I Am

Actor Kimberly Elise was one of the stars who paid tribute to Tyson in January. For years, fans of the entertainers have wondered about the nature of their relationship. 

Kimberly Elise and Cicely Tyson smiling while wearing black dresses.
Kimberly Elise and Cicely Tyson|J.Sciulli/WireImage

Cicely Tyson and Kimberly Elise played mother and daughter in ‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman’ 

Tyson’s acting career took off in the early 1970s. After spending years as a model in New York, the How To Get Away with Murder alum decided to pursue acting full-time. Following a few stints on shows such as Gunsmoke and Mission: Impossible, Tyson booked her first lead role. In 1972, her first movie, Sounder, premiered. The film earned the actor an Oscar nomination and more opportunities. 

By the early 2000s, Tyson established herself as a Hollywood heavyweight. In 2005, she worked with Tyler Perry on his inaugural feature film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman. The film was an adaptation of the Madea star’s play of the same name. During the movie, Helen (Elise) starts her life again after her husband Charles (Steve Harris) leaves her for his mistress. Tyson plays Myrtle, Helen’s mother, and her voice of reason. 

Kimberly Elise isn’t Cicely Tyson’s real daughter

Diary of a Mad Black Woman premiered in theaters on Feb. 25, 2005. According to Fox News, the film grossed $22.7 million at the Box Office during its opening weekend. Additionally, the movie marked Perry’s stance in Hollywood, as he went on to create more films and launched a production studio in Atlanta. 

Kimberly Elise smiling in a pink dress/Cicely Tyson smiling in a fur coat.
Kimberly Elise and Cicely Tyson|E. Charbonneau/WireImage for LIONSGATE

Years after the film came out, fans of both Tyson and Elise inquired about their relationship. Their portrayal as mother and daughter sparked speculation that the actors are real-life mother and daughter.  According to Black America Web, movie lovers pointed out their resemblance in February 2021. Many also suggested that the John Q star play Tyson in a biopic of the actor. 

While Tyson supported Elise and her career after their time together on Diary of a Mad Black Woman, the two don’t have a biological connection. In her memoir, the Fried Green Tomatoes opened up about her only child, a daughter she referred to as “Joan.” Tyson gave birth to her daughter at 18 during her marriage to Kenneth Franklin. 

“Joan felt, as a child, that she had to share me with the world,” she wrote. “I give her now, in adulthood, what my heart has always longed to bestow — my undivided focus, along with the full measure of her privacy.” 

Did Kimberly Elise attend Cicely Tyson’s funeral?

‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman’ 15 Years Later: What Is the Cast Worth Today?

Following Tyson’s death, many of her colleagues paid tribute to the actor via Twitter. Several artists such as Rihanna referred to the Neighbors actor as a “legend” as they watched her from afar. However, those who knew Tyson personally, like Perry, mourned the woman who felt like his family member.  

“She was the grandmother I never had and the wisdom tree that I could always sit under to fill my cup. My heart breaks in one beat while celebrating her life in the next,” he wrote on Instagram. “She called me son. Well, today, your son grieves your loss and will miss our long talks, your laughter from your belly, and your very presence.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, Tyson’s funeral took place at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York. According to USA Today, Perry, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Lenny Kravitz attended the event. While it’s unclear if Elise made an appearance, thousands of people reportedly gathered from across the country to honor Tyson.