Robin Torres, Assistant Dean of Student Engagement & Leadership

"Phenomenal Woman"
by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Read hear the full poem

This poem was given to me by my High School English teacher. She was also the Dean of Students, and a central figure in my life growing up on the Lower East Side in New York City. I was a six-foot-tall, plus-sized, student government leader learning to walk in her own shoes. While I was an undergrad, I had the opportunity to hear Maya Angelou recite this in person, and this gave an introduction to "Still I Rise," which has also inspired me during a boxed in moment or two in my 20s, but this poem continues to give and that teacher, Mrs. Hannah Hess, is still a powerhouse and a presence in my life. Her first novel, "Honest Deceptions," was published, in her 80th year.