Almost everything I’ve read about Maya Angelou since her death lists her various occupations and achievements, with some permutations. Zapiro’s cartoon in last Friday’s Mail & Guardian, for example, had: “Poet, playwright, survivor, warrior, activist, Africanist, singer, songwriter, memoirist, novelist, actor, orator, director, dancer, teacher, preacher, filmmaker, trailblazer, humanist, humorist, phenomenal woman.”
There are two titles that she bore, if only briefly, that to me are conspicuously absent: madam and sex worker. (A few obituarists have mentioned her sex work, but only in passing.)
In her late teens, soon after leaving her mother’s home in San Francisco to make it on her own in Los Angeles, the young Angelou found herself in business with an older lesbian couple: she managed the brothel and its finances, and the couple turned tricks. Angelou was scared out of the industry but years later, in Stockton, California, she met the sweet-talking but dishonest Lou, who lured her into sex work – this time as a sex worker herself.
Read it at the M&G.
Image – Reuters