All Articles Tagged "debbie allen"

Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind The Making Of “A Different World”

June 15th, 2015 - By Deron Dalton
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a different world feat

Source: Carsey-Werner Productions

A Different World was added to Netflix recently, becoming popular all over again. Newer generations can watch what life is like at a historically Black college or university as well as witness other relatable experiences to most young people. However, there are plenty of behind-the-scenes secrets you all might not know about this college-set sitcom, which was a direct spin-off of The Cosby Show.

“I Will Live The Life I Choose”: Why Essence’s “Game Changers” Cover Is So Important To Me

April 24th, 2015 - By Nneka Samuel
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Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes And More Cover Essence


“I hope someone sees this and thinks: ‘I will live the life I choose,’” tweeted director Ava DuVernay. She was speaking about her Essence magazine cover and feature story with fellow storytellers Debbie Allen, Shonda Rhimes, Mara Brock Akil, and Issa Rae. In the magazine, the five women, who have individually and collectively made history several times over, discuss the current state of the entertainment industry, sex, and relationships. The friendly, open conversation amongst these powerhouse friends reflects the growing, lasting legacy these women have built, one we should all see ourselves in.

These women are proof that diversity, both in front of and behind the camera, is not a fad or too much of a good thing. They have staying power, and in an industry obsessed with numbers — from box office and Nielsen ratings to clicks on YouTube and the obvious dollar, dollar bills. Numbers don’t lie. And time and again, numbers have proven that viewers are craving diverse content, hunger that seems to surprise critics when a film like The Best Man Holiday does well. We’re smarter than the prevailing assumptions: that movies (or TV shows for that matter) with predominantly Black casts are “race films,” stories that won’t resonate with people not of color. We’re smarter than that.

The success of these women is no accident or mere fluke, folks. Content – great content, is king. It generates viewers, loyal fans and sends social media abuzz. Ava, Debbie, Shonda, Mara and Issa create honest portrayals of humanity, womanhood, femininity, and Blackness; multi-dimensional characters who own their agency and women who openly embrace their sexuality. Diversity is a fact of human existence, and their work gives it a chance in beautiful ways.
These women didn’t ask for permission, nor did they sit around and wait for opportunity to come knocking because, in all honesty, it wasn’t looking for them. They saw a need, coupled it with vision, and moved mountains to make some of the most poignant stories that have ever hit screens and stages.

Months ago, I saw Unsung Hollywood’s episode on A Different World. Debbie Allen made a hilarious yet serious comment about the lack of hot sauce on tables at Hillman’s hangout spot, The Pit. It being on the campus of a Southern HBCU, the absence almost seemed absurd to Allen. It’s that kind of attention to detail, something that all of these women have, that assures us that our stories are in capable hands. Our voices will be heard. We will be understood. In their arms, we aren’t reduced to mere stereotypes or caricatures. We won’t be led astray.

These women have done more than open doors. They have paved permanent paths and created a landscape that pushes past the labels put on us. A landscape that drives past our perceived limitations, past the absurd notion that we don’t rightfully belong here, in this space of abundance, awareness, possibility, and agency. And they do it while juggling marriage, motherhood, and multiple projects – while running the world with their bad selves.

In Ava DuVernay, Debbie Allen, Shonda Rhimes, Mara Brock Akil, Issa Rae and other storytellers like Felicia D. Henderson and Gina Prince-Bythewood, I see support and opportunity. I see a reason to push past my fears, to tell the stories that dance around in my head and keep me up at night. I see the next generation of storytellers. I see beauty and resilience. I see us. And I am thankful. Very thankful.

Game-Changers Debbie Allen, Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes & More Talk About The Black Women Who Inspired Them

April 17th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Shonda Rhimes & More Talk About The Black Women Who Inspired Them

Source: Essence

We were happy to report the news that Essence magazine was featuring a few of our favorites, Debbie Allen, Mara Brock Akil,  Ava DuVernay, Issa Rae, and Shonda Rhimes, on the cover of their Mary issue.

Not only did the women look absolutely beautiful in their white, in some recent videos from behind the cover shoot, the cover girls talked about what it meant to be featured with this group of women and the Black women who inspired them to pursue careers in film and television.

Check out some of the highlights from the videos and the full clips below.

The Black woman who inspired DuVernay to tell stories

The Black woman who inspired me to be storyteller was my Aunt Denise. She was a storyteller in her own right, as many people in our families are who may not be able to amplify their stories through film, or television or books or media. She was the storyteller of our family, the keeper of our stories, the one who made sure that we were connected through our own narratives in the family. She loved film, she loved theater and she was really the person who inspired me to say that I want to tell stories and that it was ok to do that and pursue that.  


The Black woman who inspired Debbie Allen 

The Black woman that has inspired me to be in arts is really my mother, Vivian Ayers. She encouraged me to dance, to study ballet, to train, even though things were segregated in Houston, Texas. She’s also been my greatest critic, my biggest fan. She is an accomplished writer, composer, cultural activist, great cook and she’s beautiful. My mom.

The Black woman who inspired Shonda Rhimes

The Black woman who inspired me to go into show business was Whoopi Goldberg. I saw her live on Broadway show when I was about 17 and it was so brilliantly written and it really inspired and made me think that I could be writer. It was a really different kind of writing and it spoke to me. It had nothing to do with me, it had nothing to do with my life and yet it was entirely familiar. It made me feel like I could be a writer.

The Black woman who inspired Issa Rae

The Black woman who inspired me to go into show business is Gina Prince Bythewood. I remember the first time I saw Love and Basketball knowing that it was written, directed, co-produced by a Black woman, shot in my neighborhood, I just remember my eyes opening wide with like ‘Oh my gosh I can do this and I want to do this and I want to create these stories.’ I definitely credit her for me taking that leap. The first step I took was writing a script. I wrote her a letter asking her to direct the script actually. She wrote me back and encouraged me to keep writing and that was the fuel I needed. Like, ‘Yes, she wrote me back, I’m supposed to do this.’

The Black woman who inspired Mara Brock Akil 

It’s funny that Debbie Allen is here today. I remember her on “Fame” but I think when I found out that she was behind the storytelling of “A Different World” I was like, ‘I’ve got to get in that world.’ I think before, television was something that I experienced but then when I realized she was doing it and how much the stories moved me, I wanted to be a part of that conversation. It’s such an honor to be here with her because our journey has continued but for us to be documented together in this way, I’m near tears, actually I’m so excited.

I love these stories about the women who inspired them. It really illustrates how doing what excites us and following our passions can open the door for the next generation. Beautiful. You can check out the full video from the behind the cover shoot below.

Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes And More Cover Essence’s Game Changers Issue

April 14th, 2015 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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essence cover

Apparently, white is the color of the season—at least if you’re judging by the May cover of Essence it is. Hollywood’s movers and shakers Ava DuVernay, Shonda Rhimes, Mara Brock Akil, Issa Rae and Debbie Allen all appear on the magazine’s Game Changers issue rocking winter white ensembles. Inside, they dish on sexuality and diversity in television and film.

Shonda Rhimes on why women of color making waves in Hollywood is not a trend:

“It’s an economic fact. There are more people of color than ever before…When the shows start doing bigger numbers than what they think are going to be their top ten shows, it becomes really hard to suggest that it’s a trend.”

Ava DuVernay on the need for more diversity behind the camera:

“Of course that has to happen […] but it is more about people working autonomously, independently, to create their own structures, mechanisms, companies, outlets. Look at you, Issa—nobody was giving you anything, so you created your own work and your own platform and your own way to distribute.”

Debbie Allen on seeing progress and hope in regard to diversity in Hollywood:

“I look at it as an opportunity. It is wide open and for the taking. When I first started, there were no women in the room, there were no Black people in the room.”

Mara Brock Akil on showcasing Black women’s sex lives:

“I’ve been relentless [about discussing sexuality] since Girlfriends… My feeling about sexuality and showing a consenting adult having sex is that it’s so empowering “Because if you are making the choice, you then have to be responsible for the choice. I think that message is conveyed to the audience. You’re not just there for the convenience of a man, you are there because you want it. It creates an opportunity—well, hopefully—for the young lady watching or the other women watching to understand you have a say in this.”

Follow Jazmine on Twitter @JazmineDenise

Guess Which Legendary Diva Is Coming To “Empire”?

February 3rd, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Guess Which Legendary Diva Is Coming To Empire

Source: FOX

Though Diddy has said that he doesn’t want his son Quincy to star on the show, it won’t stop Lee Daniels’ “Empire” from snagging some big names.

As you all know Debbie Allen is something like a beast in this entertainment industry. With a long and illustrious career, Allen continues to star in, produce and direct some of our all time favorite shows. And she’s showing absolutely no signs of stopping.

In addition to her work with Shonda Rhimes and ABC, her Twitter timeline has shown us that she is also working with Fox, directing their new hit show, “Empire.” And she’s not directing just any ole episode, Ms. Allen is directing the finale. And the season closer includes a very special guest. You may have heard of her.

Ms. Patti Labelle.

Allen confirmed the news yesterday on Twitter.

Guess Which Legendary Diva Is Coming To Empire

Source: Twitter

And since she was in the building Ms. Allen also took the opportunity to take a snapshot with the star of the show Taraji P. Henson, aka Cookie Lyon.

Guess Which Legendary Diva Is Coming To Empire

Source: Twitter

Watch The Cast Of A Different World On Where Are They Now? + Raven Symone And Vivica Fox

September 17th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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A Different World On Where Are They Now

Source: OWN

The impact of “A Different World” cannot be overstated. A television show that inspired students of all races and ethnicities to attend college? That’s major. And although the show has long since been off the air, its impact is still very strong.

So Oprah sat down with some of the cast members for her “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” series on OWN.

Hillman alum Jasmine Guy (Whitley Gilbert), Kadeem Hardison (Dwayne Wayne), Dawn Lewis (Jalessa Taylor), Sinbad (Coach Oakes), Darryl M. Bell (Ron Johnson), Cree Summer (Freddie Brooks) and executive producer of the show Debbie Allen all sat down to discuss the things they’ve been up to since they left the hit NBC series.

As you know, “A Different World” was a spinoff of “The Cosby Show” so the cast took time to pay homage to the genius of Bill Cosby in creating this groundbreaking show.

See what they had to say.

The cast of A Different World will appear on OWN on Sunday, October 26 at 9pm.

A Different World On Where Are They Now

Source: OWN

But before you catch up with these folks, Raven Symone sits down with Oprah to speak candidly about her life after childhood super stardom, including the Tweet that presumably announced to the world that she was a lesbian. You can watch Raven’s “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” episode on October 5 at 9pm. On that same day, you’ll have a chance to catch up with Jenna Von Oy  (aka Six from “Blossom” and Stevie Van Lowe on “The Parkers.”)

And then on the following Sunday, October 12 you can see what Vivica Fox is doing these days.

Looks like a jam-packed season full of familiar faces. We’re here for it.


“Together Again”: Cast Of “A Different World” Reunite To Chat With Oprah [Photos]

June 12th, 2014 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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“I know my parents love me, stand behind me cooooome what may…” That was the first thing you would hear every time A Different World started playing on TV (usually on Thursday evenings). The sitcom came on during the good ‘ol days of television–before reality TV, and when there were a wide variety of black folks represented on the silver screen. And now, the cast of the show is reuniting for Oprah Winfrey. 

Cree Summer, who played Freddie Brooks, posted pictures on Instagram with her old cast mates on set of what seems to be the taping of the OWN network’s Where Are They Now? show. While Lisa Bonet, Jada Pinkett Smith, Charnele Brown (Kimberly Reese), Karen Malina White (Charmaine) and Marisa Tomei weren’t present, all the other main characters showed up and still look pretty good! That includes Daryl M. Bell, Sinbad, Dawnn Lewis, Summer, Kadeem Hardison, Jasmine Guy and Debbie Allen, who produced and often directed the show.

This isn’t the first time that the cast has reunited for TV. In 2006, Nick at Nite did a week-long marathon of A Different World episodes, and some of the cast came together to reminisce.

In 2012, Allen said that she would like to reboot the show for a new audience, and many people seemed to like the idea. But nothing will touch the greatness of the original, and this cast of characters.

Check out pics from the cast’s time with Oprah below and on the next page.



#ThrowbackThursday: Watch Debbie Allen Dance In “West Side Story”

January 16th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: Debbie Allen and company

Did you know that Aaliyah shared a birthday with legendary dancer, actor and all around entertainer Debbie Allen? She does. Today, Debbie Allen turned 64 years old. I don’t know about you but I absolutely live for Debbie Allen. She has so much spunk, so much zest. And then of course there’s the talent,  intelligence and all around fabulousness (Have you seen her on “Grey’s Anatomy”?) that has forever solidified her place as the “Auntie” in my head. Love her!

And in honor of the anniversary of her birth, I feel the need to share a bit of her brilliance with you. In 1980, Ms. Allen starred in the Broadway revival of West Side Story as “Anita.” And I don’t have to tell you that she nailed it. Over 30 years later, it’s still quite impressive.

Watch Debbie Allen dance video below. She’s something.

Happy Birthday Ms. Allen!

Debbie Allen Puts On Nighttime Twerk Performances For Her Hubby

December 2nd, 2013 - By Jazmine Denise Rogers
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Debbie Allen

Source: WENN

In the event that you aren’t sick of hearing about twerking yet, perhaps you’ll find interest in what the legendary Debbie Allen has to say about it. The 63-year-old choreographer and director recently broke down the history of twerking.

“Twerking is nothing African isolations. It’s an African dance. It’s been given a new name. They’ve been twerking for 500 centuries. I’m glad it has a new name and I’m glad we’re on the map again. It’s an African dance. It’s sexy and it’s not something new and it’s something fun.”

She alsoo revealed that she puts on nighttime twerk performances for her hubby, Norm Nixon.

“I be twerking at night when I get home to my husband. Okayyyyyyy!”

Oh Debbie, you make us blush!

John Singleton Says He’s Not A Fan Of The Surge In White Directors Covering Black Stories

September 19th, 2013 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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In an op-ed piece for The Hollywood Reporter, director John Singleton spoke about the problem with black stories in Hollywood being told without the help of black folks behind the scenes, and particularly, black directors being an afterthought. In recent years, white directors have been bringing to life a lot of the big films that have done well at the box office, and while Singleton lauded the movies that got it right (Taylor Hackford directing Ray, Norman Jewison for The Hurricane, and recently, Brian Helgeland’s 42), he shared some inquisitive thoughts about the importance of black folks being the behind the scenes to authentically share the stories of our icons and our people in general. Here are some tidbits from the piece that definitely stood out:

Hollywood’s black film community has always had a one-for-all-and-all-for-one attitude, openly cheering the success of any black-driven movie in the hope its box-office success will translate into more jobs and stories about people of color. But, at the same time, the success of black-themed movies like The Help and this year’s 42 points to a troubling trend: the hiring of white filmmakers to tell black stories with few African-Americans involved in the creative process.

 What if the commercial success of “black films” like 42 and The Help, which also had a white director, are now making it harder rather than easier for African-American writers and directors to find work?

That is exactly what people in certain Hollywood circles are debating. When I brought up the issue with a screenwriter friend, he replied, “It’s simple. Hollywood feels like it doesn’t need us anymore to tell African-American stories.” The thinking goes, “We voted for and gave money to Obama, so [we don’t need to] hire any black people.”

…I could go on and on about the white directors who got it right and others who missed the mark. But my larger point is that there was a time, albeit very brief, when heroic black figures were the domain of black directors, and when a black director wasn’t hired, the people behind the film at least brought on a black producer for his or her creative input and perspective. Spielberg did that on The Color Purple(Quincy Jones) and Amistad (Debbie Allen). Tarantino had Reggie Hudlin on Django Unchained.

 …But now, that’s changing; several black-themed movies are in development with only white filmmakers attached, including a James Brown biopic. That’s right, the story of “Soul Brother No. 1, Mr. Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” is being penned by two Brits for Tate Taylor, director of The Help…it gives one pause that someone is making a movie about the icon who laid down the foundation of funk, hip-hop and black economic self-reliance with no African-American involvement behind the scenes. One of Brown’s most famous lines was, “I don’t want nobody to give me nothing; open up the door and I’ll get it myself.” How is that possible when the gatekeepers of this business keep the doors mostly locked shut in Hollywood?

What Hollywood execs need to realize is that black-themed stories appeal to the mainstream because they are uniquely American. Our story reminds audiences of struggles and triumphs, dreams and aspirations we all share. And it is only by conveying the particulars of African-American life that our narrative become universal. But making black movies without real participation by black filmmakers is tantamount to cooking a pot of gumbo without the “roux.” And if you don’t know offhand what “roux” is, you shouldn’t be making a black film.

Of course, the usual audience for The Hollywood Reporter (predominately white folks) gave Singleton’s piece the thumbs down, but he makes some very honest points that black folks have been talking about for years. I don’t even have to always have a black director behind a major film (because directing is not for everybody), but the concept of doing a black story with no black people involved definitely sounds preposterous. But what do you think?

Check out his full piece over at THR.