Oprah: What was your mother's name?
Sidney: Evelyn. I was a gift to my mother. She was a remarkable person. God or nature, or whatever those forces are, smiled on her, then passed me the best of her.
Oprah: Did she live long enough to reap the benefits of your life?
Sidney: She lived long enough to see me win the Academy Award. And that was tremendous.
Oprah: Did she understand what that was?
Sidney: Not altogether. But she figured it out, because when I arrived in Nassau, the people gave me a parade around the island, and she thought that was swell. The thing that best describes my mother is that, subsequent to me winning the Academy Award, she would go around the neighborhood, and whenever she'd see a mother chastising her kid, she would say, "You be careful with that child—my Sidney used to act that way."
Oprah: So you have carried her name?
Sidney: I have carried her name—a name I was asked to change.
Oprah: You were asked to change your name?
Sidney: When I went into the business, the name Poitier was thought to be difficult.
Oprah: I was asked to change my name, too!
Sidney: Were you?
Oprah: The name Oprah was thought to be too different. In my first job, they wanted me to call myself Susan.
Sidney: My goodness!
Sidney: When I was asked to change my name, I said no. I wouldn't. I couldn't. So, back to my mother—I cannot take credit for who I turned out to be. I have had that woman on my shoulder all my life. You hear? She has been there taking care of me. I am not a hugely religious person, but I believe that there is a oneness with everything. And because there is this oneness, it is possible that my mother is the principal reason for my life.
Oprah: I also believe in that oneness. Didn't you feel a greater sense of your mother's presence after she'd passed? Because when people die, their energy doesn't leave you, if you're open to it. And so of course your mother has been on your shoulder. That's why you couldn't have lost.
Sidney: I was helped.
We Hear You!