"In interviews, Dr. Angelou used the term “prostitute” to refer to her previous employment without rancor or shame. She spoke candidly to her family about it. She told her mother, brother, and son she would redact the information from the book, but only if they were uncomfortable with it. She had no issue whatsoever with speaking her truth. So why do we not know about it, save for hushed whispers and the occasional salacious reference in reports about and interviews of her? What’s so wrong with our beloved and lovely Maya Angelou having been a sex worker and brothel manager?
Respectability politics no doubt play a role in the erasure of her history as a sex worker. With a wide brush, details on it have been painted over by those who won’t acknowledge such a thing, brushing past it to talk about her awards and accolades. But she had no problem stating plainly: “There are many ways to prostitute one’s self.”
It comes to this: there is no way, in the minds of most people, to have worked as a prostitute and not be ashamed of it. Most people believe there is no way to have held this job (and it is a job), move onto other things, and not consider it a “seamy life” or “shameful secret.” To most people, there is no way a woman of Maya Angelou’s caliber could ever have performed as a sex worker. The idea just won’t gel for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the truth. Maya Angelou: Poet Laureate, Pulitzer nominee, Tony Award winner, best selling author, poetess, winner of more than 50 honorary degrees, mother, sister, daughter, wife, National Medal of Arts winner, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner, consummate and powerful woman, artist, and former sex worker. Yes, the woman you love, the woman we all love, the incomparable Dr. Maya Angelou was a sex worker and she proved, in her life and her stories, that there’s nothing wrong with it."