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Debbie Allen’s fashion and beauty legacy goes way beyond dancing

“God save the queen,” Dance Theater of Harlem dancer Dylan Santos said as I asked him for words of gratitude for Debbie Allen. Simple yet powerful, Santos shared these words with me during our red carpet interview as he mentally prepared to present his choreographed piece Odalisque Variationswhich will be presented at this year’s annual Dance Theater of Harlem Vision Gala honoring the 1990 ESSENCE cover star. Santos’ appreciation for the visual and performing arts was evident as he adorned the step-by-step with a one-of-a-kind black sequined look featuring a floor-length velvet durag and beaded waistband accents. his pants.

“She gave me the key to success because she made every dancer believe that you can literally become a star, any type of star,” praised Allen’s impact. “A median-center star; ‘camera is on you’ star. And he’s right. To say Debbie Allen is an icon would be an understatement. The Houston-born star made waves in the entertainment world and was the epitome of breaking down barriers, not apologizing for your talent, and never backing down in the face of adversity, challenge or the fear.

Main Balamouk Dancer Ingrid Silva, born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, shared her thoughts on Allen’s legacy as a woman of color in the world of dance. “I’ve followed in Debbie’s footsteps since I was a young girl when I first came to New York. It was beautiful to see her story happen,” said the EmpowHERNY founder and co-founder of Blacks in Ballet. “Having her honored tonight is not only special for me but also for young black women who dream of becoming professional dancers.”

Walking the New York City Center red carpet was none other than the iconic Debbie Allen. My heart stopped instantly, as I couldn’t believe I would be speaking with one of my idols for the second time – except this time we would be face to face. Allen approached me softly and her pearly smile was accentuated by the real matte lipstick she wore with her look. After praising her for the role she played in my life as a dedicated dancer, I had to ask the “Grey’s Anatomy” star what she was gracing us with with her presence.

“It’s vintage Revlon. A woman I love so much wanted this coat for me and I was so excited to find a blue dress bought by my stylist Rowmel, who does all the styling for me on Grey’s Anatomyshe said humbly as the blue radiated from her dress, allowing her skin to glow. The Tony nominee called her award receipt “amazing,” particularly because her introduction to dancing was made through ballet. Beyond Shirley Temple and her tight curls, Allen had aspirations of being a ballerina but she didn’t have much representation to look to. “There was none who looked like me and the Dance Theater of Harlem made that possible when you look at Misty Copeland, who just had a baby, and Lauren Anderson. The Dance Theater of Harlem in its heart and soul has certainly given us all something to aspire to be.

When I asked the fabulous 71-year-old what she thought of how black women have continued to take center stage in dance, style and fashion, she was bowled over. Not like she didn’t know the answer, but like I must already have it. “I think that question is kind of interesting because we’ve always taken and owned the dance world. They imitate us since we disembarked from the ship,” A different world the old woman said loudly. “Everyone wants to know what I’m wearing. This is the first question you asked me. The blacks by nature of the African continental mother have always been divas, grandiose, colorful, imitators and always paying homage to the ancestors and to God. Here we are.”

Sunny Hostin, who I had the pleasure of sitting next to at the Alvin Ailey Gala last year, walked the gala red carpet in a custom tuxedo sewn by none other than famed designer Sergio Hudson. The all-white trouser suit made a statement that View the host is a boss who means business, but her personality is just as I remembered her and as sweet and bright as her name. Hostin recalled a time when she dressed up as Allen from her notoriety days for a Halloween recording of View and recited the famous lines without hesitation – “Want the fame? Well, fame costs. This is where you start to sweat! »

Hostin considered some of Allen’s looks over the years iconic, including her leggings and unitard jumpsuits from the show born in 1982. She also reflected on her “incredible style moment” at the Oscars over the years. and even gave a nod to her variety of hairstyles. “Her hair has allowed so many people like me and others to wear our hair naturally. She has truly been an example of what it means to be fashion forward in hair and clothing,” Hostin said. “I often think that as women of color, we can’t just be. We have to represent, and thank you for representing us so well.

Chef, TV personality and former model Carla Hall also joined in the festivities to honor Allen as she received the Arthur Mitchell Vision Award. In playful bantu knots, white Chanel boots and a white bodysuit with a black and white skirt, Carla’s elegant and pleasant personality was worn all over her body from head to toe. “Honestly, I pulled it out of my closet. I think until today I wasn’t wearing it properly,” she said jokingly but seriously as she “unmasked,” she claimed. “I needed an event to know how to wear my skirt.”

As a dancer herself, the former chewing The co-host found her time on Instagram watching dance performances as a way to peace during quarantine, especially Debbie Allen Dance Academy. A proud Howard University alumnus, Hall gave fellow Bison her well-deserved flowers, calling her a “strength” and a “beacon of light” in the dance industry. When it came time to discuss Allen’s style and beauty moments, like Hostin, Hall thought back to notoriety, but this time for her shorter hairstyles. “I like her best when she’s feeling so in her moment dancing impromptu with her hair up,” she noted of Allen’s confidence when she’s in her natural element.

“Whether you’re a professional dancer or not, she just takes care of the human being that is part of the discipline of dance so you can continue to be who you will be in life,” Hall said passionately. “And I don’t even know her personally. I just feel that from her.

After a night virtually graced by the likes of musician Stevie Wonder, singer/actress Dolly Parton and actor Jesse Williams, Allen officially received the Arthur Mitchell Vision Award, named after the first black principal dancer in New York City. . Ballet.

“Thank you for showing me what’s possible. Debbie didn’t limit herself,” Anna Glass, executive director of Dance Theater of Harlem, told ESSENCE of the director, choreographer, actress and dancer both Also deeply impacted by Allen’s legacy, Glass had the opportunity to show last night’s winner a photo of herself younger as she studied at Ailey School while she waited for Allen after her. Sweet Charity Broadway show. “She pushed all kinds of different ways. Debbie is fearless. That’s the only word – fearless.

“When people see these magnificent dancers and these magnificent ballets, you can only be inspired by what you are going through. Fashion is about inspiration and dreaming,” Glass said of noting how dance continues to inspire fashion and beauty standards today. “When you’re a little girl, you want to dress up and it’s the same as being a ballerina. You dress up and dream of wearing a tutu. It’s about glamour, feeling beautiful, and not don’t we all want to feel beautiful?”

TOPICS: black women in dance Carla Hall Dance Theater of Harlem Debbie Allen Sunny Hostin

Hazel J. Edmonds

The author Hazel J. Edmonds