Daughter of dentist Arthur Allen and Pulitzer-prize nominated Vivan Ayers ( artist, poet, playwright, and publisher). Older siblings are jazz musician Tex (Andrew Arthur Allen Jr, born 1945) and actress Phylicia Ayers-Allen (Phylicia Rashad, born 1948), and brother Hugh Allen (real estate banker in North Carolina).
Her mother Dr Vivian Elizabeth Ayers attended Brainerd Institute, Barber Scotia College and Bennett College. Vivian was the first poet in the state of Texas to receive the Pulitzer Prize Award nomination in 1952. Vivian was often called the "Poet Laureate of Texas." In the late 50's, her poetry, "Hawk," attracted the attention of NASA and for twenty years was the only poetry celebrated by NASA. She worked as an apprentice librarian at the Fondren Library of Rice University and was accorded faculty status in 1965, becoming the first African American to be so qualified. During her years at Rice, she organized and published The Adept Quarterly, an important contribution to the small publications movement of the time.
In 1972, her mom Vivian's work, "Workshops in Open Fields," was hailed and recommended to the nation as a "prototype of grass roots programming" by the director of NEA. Vivian established the Adept New American Museum--a museum for art and history of the American Southwest; which features "Juneteenth" Black Cowboys, American Indian Sand Painting, seminars on the Emancipation Proclamation and Mayan studies-- in Mt Vernon NY. She is known as a leader in the arts community in New York area.
Received a Drama Desk Award in 1979.
Has twice been nominated for Tony Awards: in 1980, as Best Actress (Featured Role -Musical) for a revival of "West Side Story," and in 1986, as Best Actress (Musical) for playing the title character in a revival of Bob Fosse's "Sweet Charity."
Is one of three people (Gene Anthony Ray, and Lee Curreri) to appear in both Fame the Movie (1980) and the TV series.
It's the only person who appears in Fame the movie (1980), Fame (TV series) and Fama (1990).
Her most notable role to date, that of "Lydia Grant" on the TV Series "Fame" (1982), earned her three Emmy Nominations and one Golden Globe.
Her father passed away ten days after he accompanied her to the Emmy Awards Ceremony in which she won for Best Choreography for "Fame" (1982).
Daughter Vivian Nixon followed in Debbie's footsteps by playing Debbie's "Anita" role in a 2006 revival of the musical Leonard Bernstein Conducts West Side Story (1985) (TV). Debbie returned to her hometown of Houston to see her daughter perform.
Mother of Norman Nixon Jr. (born 1987) and Vivian Nixon (born 1984).
Won 1992 & 1995 Essence Awards.
Founder of the Debbie Allen Dance Institute in Culver City, CA in 2000.