Maya Angelou wrote incredible poetry. But here are 9 things you might not know she did.

Maya Angelou was a really phenomenal human being.

In a 2009 interview with Maya Angelou, Guardian writer Gary Younge summed up the American poet's incredible biography in a perfect way:

"To know her life story is to simultaneously wonder what on earth you have been doing with your own life and feel glad that you didn't have to go through half the things she has. Before she hit 40 she had been a professional dancer, prostitute, madam, lecturer, activist, singer, and editor. She had lived in Ghana and Egypt, toured Europe with a dance troupe and settled in pretty much every region of the United States."

Pretty impressive—but that's just the Cliff's Notes version.


Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images.

The more I learn about Angelou, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 86, the more blown away I am by her intellect, strength, and sense of humor. I also totally get why the media doesn't always tell her whole story: It took Angelou seven full-length autobiographies to get through the whole yarn.

Here are nine facts about the poet that are often cut from media and teaching materials in the interest of saving time — but that prove what a phenomenal human being she really was:

1. She became the first black female streetcar driver in San Francisco...

...when she was 14 years old.

2. She created a 10-part documentary about the influence of African-American culture on the broader American cultural landscape.

She did this while mourning the death of her friend Martin Luther King Jr. (who was assassinated on her birthday), all without having any formal training as a filmmaker.

3. She threw really epic parties.

Even into her 80s, Angelou threw some rocking get-togethers. As she told the New York Times, not even her health problems could get in the way of her life-of-the-party attitude.

Angelou threw a garden party at her home for her 82nd birthday in 2010. Photo by Steve Exum/Getty Images.

"One of my lungs is half gone and the other half, because I smoked for years, has a lesion. So I can’t swim anymore and had the swimming pool covered over. Now it’s what I call the dance pavilion, and so I and my friends sit out and put music on and watch people dance."

4. While living in Egypt, she was one of two African-Americans working at any news publication in the Middle East.

The other was W.E.B. Du Bois’ stepson, David Du Bois, who fought hard to persuade The Arab Observer to hire Angelou. He succeeded, and she became the only woman in the publication's newsroom. What's more, Du Bois allegedly used to tell her, "Girl, you realize, you and I are the only black Americans working in the news media in the Middle East?"

5. She definitely knew what was important in life.

Angelou made sure to separate her work from her personal life. Writing was very important to her, but it was, above all, just a job — so she made sure not to do it at home. As Gary Younge wrote in 2009, "When I ask what she does to relax, it sounds as though she mostly naps, only to wake and receive awards."

6. She spoke five different languages, aside from English: French, Spanish, Hebrew, Italian, and Fanti, a Ghanaian language.

Photo via Burns Library, Flickr. Used with permission from HistoryBuff.

7. She was totally up front about what she wanted.

Whenever she agreed to be interviewed, she provided the interviewer with a fabulously straightforward list of rules. The rules included:

A meeting dialogue: "Dr. Angelou will often pause prior to speaking or when completing her thought. Please hold your thought until she is finishing speaking."

Room temperature: "Dr. Angelou requires warm rooms. You may choose to remove your jacket or loosen your tie if you find the room too warm."

8. After being sexually abused as a child, Angelou stopped speaking for six years.

That's not awesome at all, obviously, but the way she kept her mind sharp during those years of silence is awesome: She memorized the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe.

9. Her music is crazy good.

Here's proof:

Sometimes we forget that famous people like Angelou were also very real human beings who made the world a better place one day at a time.

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign. We don't do PSAs. We also need to update so to explain truth – the nonprofit behind the truth youth smoking prevention campaign – you could also say this in a funny way – best known for sharing the facts about smoking and vaping or pull from some old campaigns. Just layer in a description of truth and who the campaign is., is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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