Debbie Allen

Deborrah Kaye Allen, better known as Debbie Allen, is an American choreographer and dancer from Houston, Texas.

Date of birth

She was born on January 16, 1950.

Family & Early life

Shewas born to Arthur Allen and Vivian Ayers. Her mother was a strong role model in her life, who took care of Debbie and her siblings when her parents got divorced. Vivian herself was a Pulitzer prize winning poet, and she wanted to provide the best opportunities for her children. She ensured that Debbie and her siblings not only excelled at their schoolwork, but also became independent young adults by making them perform chores around the house. She always wanted her children to experience new things, so she moved the family to Mexico for 2 years despite the fact that none of them spoke Spanish or knew anyone there. Debbie was determined to be a dancer from a very young age, and her parents enrolled her in dance classes when she was five years old.


At the age of 12, she auditioned for the Houston Ballet School, where her performance was much appreciated – yet, she was denied admission on racial grounds. She was secretly admitted by a Russian instructor who was impressed with her skills, and later accepted as the only black student there because of her sheer talent. Racial discrimination hampered her career several times, including being rejected admission at the North Carolina School of Arts. Disappointed by this state of affairs, Debbie enrolled at Howard University to study drama, from where she graduated with honors in 1971.

Love life

Allen is married to former NBA star Norm Nixon. They have three children. She was previously married to Winnfred Wilford.

Net worth

Not yet established.


n 1979, Allen had a brief moment in the spotlight when she landed a small part in Alex Haley's epic television mini-series, Roots: The Next Generation, which discussed race relations in America. But Allen hit it big in 1980, after she starred in a Broadway revival of West Side Story as Anita. Her performance earned her a Tony Award nomination, and the critical acclaim necessary to land a role as a dance instructor in the movie Fame (1980).

Fame won several Academy Awards, and helped launched a dance fad across the U.S. The wild success of the film evolved into a successful television spin-off in 1982, in which Allen also co-starred. For her role as choreographer on the show, Allen snagged three Emmy Awards for choreography.

After Fame was canceled, Allen headlined Bob Fosse's revival of the musical Sweet Charity, for which she was honored with a Tony. Then in 1988, Allen stepped behind the camera to direct The Cosby Show spinoff, A Different World — her sister, Phylicia Rashad, had starred as mother Clare Huxtable in the popular franchise of The Cosby Show. Allen boosted the show to the top of the ratings, continuing to produce and direct the sitcom until its finale in 1993.

She has been nominated 20 times for an Emmy Award (winning three), two Tony Awards, and has also won a Golden Globe Award and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1991.

Allen is best known for her work in the musical-drama television series Fame (1982-1987), where she portrayed dance teacher Lydia Grant, and served as the series' principal choreographer. For this role in 1983 she received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy and two Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography and was nominated for four Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Allen later began working as director and producer, most notably producing and directing 83 of 144 episodes of NBC comedy series A Different World (1988-1993).

She returned to acting playing the leading role in the NBC sitcom In the House from 1995 to 1996, and in 2011 began playing Dr. Catherine Avery in the ABC medical drama Grey's Anatomy also serving as an executive producer/director. She has directed more than 50 television and film productions.

In 2001, Allen opened the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, where she currently teaches young dancers. She also taught choreography to former Los Angeles Lakers dancer-turned-singer, Paula Abdul

In 2000s and 2010s, Allen directed television shows, including 44 episodes of All of Us, as well as GirlfriendsEverybody Hates ChrisHow to Get Away with MurderEmpireScandal and Jane the Virgin.

In 2020, she directed the musical film Christmas on the Square starring Dolly Parton for Netflix.

Debbie Allen Dance Academy

In 2001, Allen opened the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles, California. The nonprofit school offers a comprehensive dance curriculum for students ranging in age from 4 to 18, regardless of financial status.

Contact Details

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Debbie Allen
First Name Debbie
Surname Allen
Born 16th January, 1950
Home City Houston, Texas, U.S.
Current City