The legendary artist was presented the Governors Award by Ava DuVernay, Jada Pinkett Smith and other collaborators from her storied career
After more than five decades in the industry, Debbie Allen shined bright at the 2021 Emmys as the recipient of this year’s legendary Governors Award.
From the stage to the screen, Debbie Allen is an American icon. The triple threat broke onto the scene playing the role of Anita on Broadway in the classic musical West Side Story, then found her way into the hearts of millions in the beloved role of Lydia Grant in the hit TV series Fame.
Since then, Allen also made history behind the camera as a key director and producer of A Different World, executive producer and for director of Grey’s Anatomy, as well as directing episodes of Insecure, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, Jane the Virgin and more.
In her speech at the 2021 Emmys, Allen celebrated receiving her flowers while also passing the torch to the next generation.
Norm Nixon, Debbie Allen, Kylie Marie Jefferson, and Norm Nixon, Jr. attend the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards at L.A. LIVE on Sept, 19, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images)
The award was accompanied by a video tribute, narrated by Gayle King, which chronicled her groundbreaking career. As the video finished, some of Allen’s cherished collaborators — Jada Pinkett Smith, Ava DuVernay, Ellen Pompeo , and Michael Douglas) stood on stage to officially present the award to Allen, who walked out to the theme song from Fame.
The multi-hyphenate was greeted with a standing ovation the second she appeared, with her peers cheering her on for the well-deserved honor.
“I am trembling with gratitude and grace,” she shared in her speech. “I’m trying not to cry and be equal to the situation, because it’s been many years in the making…it’s taken a lot of courage to be the only woman in the room most of the time. A lot of courage and creativity and fight and faith to believe that I could keep going — and I have… I want to say thank you for this glorious moment in the sun.”
— Entertainment Tonight (@etnow) September 20, 2021
Debbie Allen receiving a standing ovation after she accepted the Governors Award at the 2021 Emmys. ❤️pic.twitter.com/Kzr7r6VWBp
— Off Colour (@OffColourOrg) September 20, 2021
One of the most viral moments of the night came from the speech, when Allen promptly told the ceremony’s producers, “Honey, turn that clock off. I ain’t paying no attention to it,” while trying to complete her speech.
The instructions earned plenty of applause and laughter in the room as she continued to address the audience.
Debbie Allen at The Broad Museum celebration for the opening of Soul Of A Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983 on March 22, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for The Broad Museum)
She continued, “Let this moment resonate with women across this country and across the world. From Texas to Afghanistan, let them know. And also with young people… they’re inheriting the world that we leave them. It is time for you to claim your power. Claim your voice. Say your song. Tell your stories. It will make us a better place. Your turn.”
As theGrio previously reported, Governors Award selection committee co-chair Eva Basler shared a statement on Allen when it was announced earlier this year that she was receiving this award.
Basler shared at the time, “Debbie Allen has been a creative voice for a generation of performers and storytellers and has left an indelible mark on the television industry.”
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