At Emmys, Debbie Allen tells women ‘from Texas to Afghanistan’ to ‘claim your power’

Debbie Allen, in a sparkly red dress, speaks into a microphone and points to her audience
Dance legend Debbie Allen accepts the Governors Award during the 2021 Emmys ceremony Sunday night.
(Television Academy via Associated Press)

While accepting the prestigious Governors Award at the 2021 Emmys ceremony Sunday night, dance legend Debbie Allen had a message for women and young people worldwide.

“From Texas to Afghanistan ... it is time for you to claim your power, claim your voice, sing your song, tell your stories,” Allen said, alluding to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Taliban-conquered Afghanistan and recent anti-abortion legislation in Texas.

“It will make us a better place. Your turn.”

Allen made Emmys history over the weekend as the first Black woman to receive the Governors Award.

After receiving a standing ovation — as well as individual tributes from the likes of director Ava DuVernay, actor Jada Pinkett Smith and other Hollywood peers — the “Fame” star thanked “everybody who’s given me an opportunity to become Debbie Allen,” including one of her most famous dance pupils, late Lakers icon Kobe Bryant.


Find out the winners of this year’s Emmys right here. We’ll be updating the list live throughout the show.

Sept. 19, 2021

For the record:

10:10 a.m. Sept. 20, 2021An earlier version of this story said Steven Spielberg directed Debbie Allen in “Amistad.” Allen was a producer on the film but did not appear in it.

Allen also offered shoutouts to filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who directed the 1997 film “Amistad,” on which she was a producer, and TV producer Shonda Rhimes, who collaborated with her on the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.”

During her 40-plus years in the entertainment industry, Allen has become best known for her standout TV turns in “Fame” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” as well as her renowned and inspirational work as a dancer, choreographer and philanthropist.

“I am trembling with gratitude and grace,” Allen continued in her emotional speech.

“I’m trying not to cry and be equal to the situation, because it’s been many years in the making — taking a lot of courage to be the only woman in the room most of the time. A lot of courage and creativity and faith to believe that I could keep going, and I have.”