Actress, director and producer Deborrah Kaye Allen was born on January 16, 1950 in Houston, Texas. She graduated from Howard University with a degree in Greek literature, speech and theater.
She began acting in the mid-1970s, notably in Roots: The Next Generation, but only earned attention in 1980, when she starred in the film Fame. Her role as Lydia Grant was a relatively minor one, but the character would stick with her, especially when it was spun off into the television series of the same name; there, she was the central character. She also performed as part of singing group The Kids from Fame, which was founded in light of the film’s success. Her success on the franchise led to two Emmys and one Golden Globe for her choreography on the show. She also later launched a reality series of the same name in 2003, but only met limited success.
Allen also met success as the producer of A Different World, a sitcom (spun off from The Cosby Show) which centered on the students of a historically black college. She was also part of the television series In the House, and directed numerous episodes of Girlfriends, All of Us and Everybody Hates Chris. Similarly, she appeared on Broadway, notably in the all-African-American production of Cat on a Hot Tin. She also choreographed several Oscar award nights, and appeared as a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance.
Allen was later recognized for her work, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, an honorary doctorate degree from her alma mater, and a slot in the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, a slot bestowed on her by former president George W. Bush in 2001.
To Evan on dancing with Kayla, who was inches taller:
"You handle your big woman, baby!"
To a Dancer who made it to the top 20 on #SYTYCD
"Now, go call your Momma"
"life imitates art, art imitates life"
"Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes and dance."