The multi-hyphenate producer, director and dance guru Debbie Allen received the most prestigious award at the Emmys yesterday evening. Allen became the first Black woman to accept the Governor's Award, now joining Tyler Perry (2020), Jerry Lewis (2005) and Lucille Ball (1989).
The Governor’s Award is granted to, “an individual, company, organization or project for outstanding achievement in the arts and sciences or management of television," the Emmy's website reads.
During her expansive 53-year-long career, and counting, the Houston native has done it all. From choreography to acting to directing and songwriting, Allen is living in her continued success story. Her clientele includes some of the biggest names in music like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Dolly Parton. The entertainer has also obtained notable credits on shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. In her lifetime, Allen has received two Tony’s, a Golden Globe, 20 Emmy nominations and five Emmy wins, leading up to this once-in-a-lifetime honor .
During the ceremony, a visual tribute was displayed, narrated by Gayle King, reminiscing on Allen's life and career. And, celebrities including Jada Pinkett-Smith, Ellen Pompeo, Ava Duvernay, and Michael Douglas introduced Debbie Allen on stage holding canes, nodding to her character in Fame.
“I am trembling with gratitude with gratitude and grace, I’m trying not to cry, and be equal to the situation because it's been many years in the making,” Allen begins in her gracious acceptance speech. “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.”
During her speech, the infamous (and, sometimes annoying) time lock began to count down Allen’s elongated speech, but the recipient didn’t hesitate to let the timer disrupt her joyful moment saying, “Honey turn that clock off, I ain’t paying no attention to it turn it off.”
The recipient ended her monolog with a firm statement, encouraging women across the world to claim their power. “Claim your voice, say your song, tell your stories. It will make us a better place,” Allen concluded.
Watch the full acceptance speech below.