Debbie Allen

Actress, Director and Choreographer Debbie Allen makes history at the 73rd Emmy Awards as the first Black woman to receive the prestigious Governors Award.


Debbie Allen has had one of the most impressive careers. She began dancing at the age of three and by the age of twelve, she auditioned for the Houston Ballet School in 1962. Because of the color of her skin, she was rejected. But her talent was so recognizable that she eventually enrolled.

After graduating from Howard University, she began appearing on television, winning the role of Anita in the revival of West Side Story. But she's mostly known for her iconic role of Lydia Grant, a dance teacher in the musical series Fame (1982-1987). Since then, she has directed and acted in several TV shows such as The Cosby Show, A Different World, Everybody Hates Chris and Grey's Anatomy.

But her legacy is thanks to her work at the Debbie Allen's Dance Academy, where she helps countless of young people from different backgrounds to dance and follow their dreams.

Before giving her speech, Allen was welcomed by Jada Pinkett Smith, Ellen Pompeo, Ava DuVernay and Michael Douglas. They all held canes as a tribute to Allen's character in Fame.

In her heartfelt speech, Allen recognized that the way to get there was not unhindered:

"It's taken a lot of courage to be the only woman in the room most of the time."

She then thanked Steven Spielberg and Shonda Rhimes while jokingly saying that she didn't care about the clock ticking for the length of the speech. But perhaps the most powerful moment was when she included women all around the world:

"Let this moment resonate with women across the world, from Texas to Afghanistan and also with young people who have no vote, who can't even get a vaccine, they're inheriting the world that we leave them. It is time for you to claim your power, claim your voice, sing your song, tell your stories. It will make us a better place."

Then pointed the finger right at us through the screen and said "your turn."

Congratulations to Debbie Allen for making history at the Emmys after a long, outstanding career.

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