Show Transcript
[MUSIC] Our mother recognized our artistic gifts very early on in life. And as far back as I can remember Debbie was dancing. I just can't remember a time when she wasn't. Cuz not many people Like Debbie Allen can say, I'm a wife, I'm a mother, I'm a choreographer, I'm an actress in television, broadway in movies, everything. I saw her first in Rag time. You know, it was rare to see an African American woman, beautiful in a situation like a character Like that. I'd never, I'd never seen it before. From A Different World, to Amistad, to even [UNKNOWN] shows, like every single piece of, of work that she puts out, comes from the heart. She's extremely empowering obviously, as a woman of color in this industry, but to command yourself with respect and humility, and grace, and honor. Working with Debbie, On empire was like sharing some hot grits, and butter, and bacon with my sister. I think for me she brought me to the series because I am her. She understands homophobia in the African American community. She understands what it's like to be a Black A person of existence. When I met Debbie, I was 15 years old. Debbie's school, it was the first time I was surrounded by people that looked like me. She does not say you have to be a certain shape, a certain size, or of a certain culture. She takes them all. I think it's Debbie's development in theatre that creates Her staying power. To have so many credits to your name. To take on so many roles and to do that decade after decade, that's legendary to me. [MUSIC]

Toast to a Legend: See How Stars Celebrate Debbie Allen

Debbie Allen was legendary long before she appeared on camera. Phylicia Rashad, Lee Daniels, Issa Rae, Misty Copeland and so many others have been able to bear witness to the true power of our ninth annual ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Legend Honoree.