Iconic director, performer and choreographer Debbie Allen has been selected to receive the Television Academy’s 2021 Governors Award, “in recognition of her numerous contributions to the television medium through multiple creative forms and her philanthropic endeavors around the world.”
Allen, a staple in TV and film for decades, was chosen by the Television Academy’s Board of Governors “for her unprecedented achievements in television and her commitment to inspire and engage marginalized youth through dance, theater arts and mentorship,” the org said. She’ll receive the award during CBS’ telecast of the 73rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 19.
Last year, Tyler Perry and The Perry Foundation were honored with the award. Other recent recipients include “Star Trek,” ITVS, “American Idol,” A+E Networks, Marian Dougherty, June Foray, John Walsh and the It Gets Better Project, co-founded by Dan Savage and Terry Miller.
The Governors Award is handed out to “an individual or organization in the television arts and sciences whose achievement is so exceptional and universal in nature that it goes beyond the scope of annual Emmy Awards recognition.”
As one of the world’s premiere dancer, choreographer, actress, writer, producer and director, Allen has choreographed the Academy Awards 10 times, and holds four honorary doctorate degrees. Her Debbie Allen Dance Academy provides support for disenfranchised Black and Latino communities.
“Debbie Allen has been a creative voice for a generation of performers and storytellers and has left an indelible mark on the television industry,” said Governors Award selection committee co-chair Eva Basler. “Debbie’s commitment to mentoring underserved communities has been nothing short of extraordinary. She has shared her gift and love of dance and choreography with countless aspiring performers across the globe,” added committee Co-Chair Debra Curtis.
Allen’s directing and producing credits include “Fame,” “Scandal,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Empire,” “Insecure,” “A Different World,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and more. She serves as executive producing director of “Grey’s Anatomy,” where she also stars in a recurring role as Dr. Catherine Fox.
“This has been an amazing year for me,” Allen said. “To be celebrated by the Television Academy is an overwhelming honor that humbles me and says to my community of dancing gypsies, actors, writers and musicians that if you stay passionate about your craft and do the work, you can go far.”
Allen has choreographed for artists such as Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Gwen Verdon, Carmen de Lavallade, Diane Carroll, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr., Dolly Parton and Savion Glover. She has been an artist in residence at the Kennedy Center for over 15 years, creating original works with Arturo Sandoval and James Ingram, such as “Pepito’s Story,” “Brothers of the Knight,” “Dreams,” “Alex in Wonderland,” “Soul Possessed,” “Pearl” and “Dancing in the Wings.”
Her Debbie Allen Dance Academy, launched in 2000, began as a way to teach dance and theater arts to marginalized students in Los Angeles and around the world. The nonprofit school today provides services on-site to over 3,000 participants annually, grants extensive scholarships to students and invests in classes specially designed for cancer patients, seniors, and women and children who have experienced domestic abuse.
Allen is a three-time Emmy Award winner in choreography (“Fame” and “Motown 25”); she’s also a Kennedy Center Honoree and the recipient of 10 Image Awards, the Olivier Award, multiple Tony nominations, a Golden Globe and the Drama Desk Award.
The 73rd Emmy Awards airs Sunday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, hosted by Cedric the Entertainer, on CBS and Paramount Plus.