• Jeni Hansen

Maya & Oprah

“One day in 1998 the name Vanilla Beane was brought to the attention of another recognizable one, Marguerite Annie Johnson, better known as Maya Angelou. VPB was asked to make a hat for a friend of the late poet, and it was going to be presented at a birthday party thrown by another dear friend, Oprah Winfrey.


That year, Winfrey took Angelou on a weeklong, surprise cruise, accompanied by some of her closest friends. I don’t know how it is I didn’t get invited on this cruise 🤷🏽‍♀️. I didn’t get to meet Maya Angelou 😢, nor Oprah Winfrey 😔. My grandmother had forgotten about the whole thing; but, at 99 I give her a pass. I also reminded her that she’s also made a hat for someone attending the Queen’s Jubilee, another memory that is a part of the fabric of her hatmaking life.


Recently I asked my mother about Maya’s party and she went to that magical place where mothers pull out artifacts, old school projects, and whatever else you ask them to produce as if it was stored five minutes ago, and uncovered the photo evidence I had been looking for.


“Vanilla Beane, I thank you and my sweet Amelia for the beauty of your art. Joy! Maya Angelou 4/17/98” This was inscribed overtop of a copy of her famous poem, Phenomenal Woman.”


(An excerpt from the documentary in progress on Vanilla Powell Beane 👒👵🏽)

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