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PHOTO BY OLIVER BOKELBERG

Allen takes care of herself physically, and makes it a point to be around people with positive attitudes. She says: “I think positive energy is important to your health, and when you’re around people who aren’t positive, you can come up sick and not even understand why.”

“I respond to challenge with passion, persistence and energy,” she says. “I’ve been told many times that my energy level is off the charts which, I think, diminishes any negative perception that one might have about working with a 67-year-old actor, director, choreographer or producer.” Allen says she takes care of herself physically, and makes it a point to be around people with positive attitudes. She says: “I think positive energy is important to your health, and when you’re around people who aren’t positive, you can come up sick and not even understand why.” One of Allen’s most exciting collaborations began in 2011, when she was hired to play Dr. Catherine Avery on Grey’s Anatomy and became part of ShondaLand, which is the name of the production company owned by creator, producer and head writer Shonda Rhimes — who is herself a trailblazing woman of color. Allen’s acting stint led to the opportunity to direct the series. Now she serves as GROWINGBOLDERMAGAZINE.COM

executive producer. “It’s amazing,” Allen says of working with Rhimes, who also created The Practice and Scandal. “Shonda is a great storyteller and an incredible human being who reaches across aisles and barriers and boundaries to give more opportunity,” she adds. “I’ve hired more women to direct Grey’s Anatomy than any other show on TV. So, I feel really good about that.” One of Allen’s current projects — and one about which she’s particularly passionate — is Freeze Frame, a musical about young people in the inner city and their struggles with gun violence. “I’m hoping to take Freeze Frame to Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia,” she says. “It’s an incredible, interactive theater piece that can help bring communities together and heal the divide.” Allen doesn’t think about the future, and won’t venture an opinion about what she’ll be doing in her 80s or 90s. “It’s all about the here and now,” she says. “That’s where

I live and that’s what I focus on. I have no intention of slowing down and resting on my laurels, because there’s so much more to do.” With a legendary career that has spanned three decades and is still going strong, Allen continues to move forward while giving back — providing an inspirational example for all. She says: “To make things happen you must believe in yourself, and you must continue working to expand your talent and your technique because just when you think you’re there, you’re not. There’s always something else you can learn. I’m still a student — and that’s what makes a difference.” 

GB EXTRA Visit GrowingBolderMagazine.com to listen to our Growing Bolder Radio conversation with Debbie Allen and to learn more about the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.

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Profile for Growing Bolder

Growing Bolder Magazine: Vol. 32  

Debbie Allen has overcome racism, sexism and ageism to become a Hollywood powerhouse. She talks to Growing Bolder about her rocky road to su...

Growing Bolder Magazine: Vol. 32  

Debbie Allen has overcome racism, sexism and ageism to become a Hollywood powerhouse. She talks to Growing Bolder about her rocky road to su...