Debbie Allen receives 2021 Kennedy Center Honors with family

Allen opened up about her lengthy career and the changing television landscape during the ceremony, which was taped Friday and airs June 6.

Debbie Allen was paid well-deserved tribute at the 2021 Kennedy Center Honors, along with four other worthy award recipients.

After postponing its taping for six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kennedy Center Honors awards ceremony officially took place on Friday night at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House, featuring a star-studded line-up of recipients. A multiple award-winning actress, dancer, choreographer, director and more, Allen was joined as an honoree this year by iconic actor Dick Van Dyke, country music king Garth Brooks, folk legend Joan Baez and star violinist Midori.

Award-winning actress, dancer, choreographer and director Debbie Allen is shown after the 43rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony at The Kennedy Center Friday in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

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The festivities return to television screens across the country on Saturday, June 6.

Allen, 71, is being recognized by the Kennedy Center Honors this year after a decades-long career spanning multiple mediums. The Howard University graduate began her journey on the Broadway stage, eventually earning a Tony nomination and scores of fans starring as Anita in Westside Story before landing her signature role of Lydia Grant in the hit TV series, Fame. Behind the camera, she served as a key director and producer of A Different World for years, and has seemingly never stopped since the ’80s, still currently executive producing and directing episodes of Grey’s Anatomy (on which she played Dr. Catherine Avery), as well as Insecure, Dolly Parton’s Christmas in the Square and much, much more.

Allen was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1991 — 30 years ago.

At the ceremony Friday, she took a moment to speak to her legacy and how the television landscape has changed throughout her career. “There are so many different venues that stream … but also, television has opened up in its diversity in a very inclusive way that was not quite so,” Allen shared.

Allen then took a moment to shout out actress Diahann Carroll in Julia, noting that she was one of the only forms of representation a young Allen got to see on screen growing up. “That has changed,” she continued, “because now we have a wide, wide pallet upon which so many different show runners and actors are painting their pallets on television. It wasn’t quite so many many years ago, and I think its good!”

Letting her fans into some behind-the-scenes action weeks ahead of the Kennedy Center Honors airing on TV, Allen also took to social media and posted pictures from Friday night. She shared pictures with her family — including sister Phylicia Rashād and husband Norm Nixon — on her official Instagram account. In the caption of her stunning picture with Rashad, Allen wrote, “The Last Concert for the @KennedyCenterHonors was AMAZING! ❤️ @PhyliciaRashad hosted and my daughter, @VivieNixie danced. ❤️.”

Celebrating 43 years this year, the Kennedy Center Honors is regarded as one of the highest forms of acclaim and recognition an artist can receive in this country. Per their official website, “the Kennedy Center Honors has redefined America’s perception of its artistic legacy and reinvented the way this nation rewards its artists. The Honors have been compared to a knighthood in Britain, or the French Legion of Honor — the quintessential reward for a lifetime’s endeavor.”

At Friday night’s 43rd Annual Kennedy Center Honors taping at The Kennedy Center, (seated from left) Debbie Allen, Dick Van Dyke, Midori, (standing from left) David Rubenstein, Joan Baez, Garth Brooks and Deborah Rutter pose for the camera. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

The official broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors is set to air on Sunday, June 6 at 8 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. CT on CBS and Paramount+. For more information on the nominees and ceremony, you can head to the official website.

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