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‘Time Is What I’m Up Against. I Have So Much to Do’: How Hollywood Veteran Debbie Allen Built Her Fame and Fortune

Debbie Allen is a veteran when it comes to Hollywood. The multi-hyphenated Allen is an actress, dancer, choreographer, singer-songwriter, director, and producer. She’s been nominated 20 times for an Emmy Award (winning five), two Tony Awards, and has also won a Golden Globe Award. And since 1991, she has had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

TORONTO, ONTARIO – SEPTEMBER 11: Debbie Allen attends the “A Jazzman’s Blues” Premiere during the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 11, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images)

In the process, Allen, 72, has amassed a fortune of $4 million.

‘Fame’ and Beyond

Although Allen had been acting on Broadway since 1970 and appearing on various TV shows, it wasn’t until her iconic role as hardcore but inspiring dance teacher “Lydia Grant” in the 1980 film “Fame,” that she gained nationwide recognition. Her presence grew as she joined the cast of television series version of the film. The series aired between 1982 and 1987.

A Different World

In 1988, Allen joined “The Cosby Show” spinoff, “A Different World,” as counselor “Dr. Langhorne.” The show had already been airing about a year. Allen took on the position of actors advocate, according to actress Jasmine Guy, encouraging them to fight for their rights and pay value. Allen also directed more than 80 episodes of the series, which ended in 1993.

“To see that the value of your work stands tall says that I have to keep doing it,” Allen told Variety after accepting the Governors Award in 2021. She became the first Black woman tp be so honored. “Time is what I’m up against. I have so much to do. It’s not a moment to rest on laurels. This award means I have to keep my hands on the plow, as I always say.”

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Allen’s salary for “A Different World” was estimated at $1 million per season. It has been reported that Allen was hired to revamp the new series after the exit of actress Lisa Bonet.

All the while, Allen also acted in film, stage, and TV.

Allen has starred in roles on and/or directed episodes of “Girlfriends,” “Everybody Hates Chris,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Empire,” “Scandal,” “Jane the Virgin,” and “The Ms. Pat Show.”


Allen was also the driving force to bring the story of the slave ship Amistad to the big screen. She bought the rights to a 1968 Amistad novel called “Black Mutiny” in 1984 for a mere $250, as reported by The Chicago Tribune, and she worked Hollywood until she could get the story told. In 1997 she co-produced “Amistad,” which was directed by Steven Spielberg. The film took in $58.3 million.

Passing on the Art of Dance

She is the owner of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit academy that specializes in teaching the art of dance to Black youth.

The school has more than 3,000 students each year. Some of the students are recipients of extensive scholarships for the academy dance program.

Easy Spirit Partnership

In 2020, Allen signed on with Easy Spirit shoes for the “Live Your Best Life Now” campaign to celebrate the “power, beauty, and wisdom of women over 50.” The company released a Debbie Allen x Easy Spirit selection of sneakers.

Allen was married to Win Wilford from 1975 to 1983 before she wed former NBA player Norm Nixon in 1984. Nixon, who later became a sports agent, has a net worth of $10 million.

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