Tyler native Phyllis Cicero, who has become an accomplished actress, director and teacher, was acknowledged for her work Monday during a reception hosted by the Tyler-based Texas African American Museum.
Known for her role as Stella the Storyteller in the popular children’s show “Barney and Friends,” Cicero was excited to come back to her hometown.
“It’s been fantastic to come back to see what the city looks like,” she said. “I have an opportunity to see my city grow culturally, socially and educationally.”
Cicero was born and raised in Tyler and graduated from John Tyler High School in 1977. She later studied theatre arts at Columbia University in New York City and at The University of Texas at Austin.
During the reception at the Tyler Public Library, Gloria Washington, executive director of the Texas African American Museum in Tyler, read a proclamation from Tyler Mayor Martin Heines declaring Sept. 16 as Phyllis Cicero Day to honor her legacy and accomplishments.
“I’m just humbled,” Cicero said of the proclamation. “It’s quite an honor especially in your hometown. It was a special place to grow up.”
Washington explained this is the first time Cicero has been invited to Tyler to be recognized for her accomplishments.
“It brought the community together,” Washington said. “To meet her personally, it’s been awesome.”
In her speech, Cicero, who now lives in the Dallas area, recalled walking from the northern part of Tyler to get books from the Tyler Public Library as a middle schooler in the summer.
“There were so many things that happened in Tyler, Texas, that couldn’t have germinated anywhere else,” Cicero explained. “Tyler, Texas taught me you can either be pitiful or powerful.”
She said her time on “Barney and Friends” was a dream job and all the children were polite and courteous. She appeared as Stella for several shows from 1995 to 2000. She also starred in “The Best of Barney” in 2008.
“The experience on ‘Barney and Friends’ was absolutely spectacular,” Cicero said.
Cicero’s career also includes years of voice acting, production management, stage lighting, dance, improvisation and film. Her voice work features Southern, British, French, New York, Texan, Scottish and African accents.
“Voice acting is acting,” Cicero said. “It’s a very lucrative career. The voiceover industry is morphing and changing exponentially.”
She is now directing a show at the Bishop Arts Theatre Center in Dallas that is in the preproduction phase.
She teaches voiceover work and commercial acting at the KD Conservatory College of Film and Dramatic Arts in Dallas.
She continues to act and also works as a director.
For up and coming actors, Cicero said it’s important to work hard and be nice.
“This is a business of relationships,” she said. “People work with people they like.”
Washington said the museum will be planning more events in the future to honor other individuals from Tyler.