September 8, 2023 | In the News

Catching Up With Debbie Allen

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Legendary actor and choreographer Debbie Allen joins TODAY to talk about her work as a paid spokesperson for Gr8 Eye Movement to raise awareness about eye care and eye diseases. She also gives Al Roker a quick dance lesson — and he nails it!

We are so thrilled to be joined by an entertainment legend and trailblazer who is truly a renaissance woman as well.

Debbie Allen is an award-winning actress, dancer, director, and the founder of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in Los Angeles.

Her career dates back on screen to the 1970’s, with credits like Fame and Grey’s Anatomy, and she’s here to catch us up about a cause that’s important to her.
Great to see you!

Hi, it’s so great to be here with you guys and to be in New York.

You’ve got us smiling.

Well, I’m really excited to be here in collaboration with Prevent Blindness and Regeneron to launch the GR8 Eye Movement. It’s going to tell millions of people about retinal eye diseases, and you know, hopefully motivate them to be proactive about their eye health.

You’re a paid spokesperson for them. Why is this mission important to you?

Well, it’s important to me because I’m talking to the 60+ crowd. 95% of them don’t even know what something like wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration is. They don’t even know about it. They are at risk and I’m in that category. I think it’s important, if celebrity means anything, to share information.

Information is power, so if people go on our website,, we’re hoping like today, September the eighth, people can start today. On the eighth of every month, be proactive and prioritize your eye health.

I can’t express how important this is; and for me personally, there are other conditions, other diseases, retinal diseases like diabetic retinopathy. I mean, I have been diagnosed as being pre-diabetic, I’m on the lookout for it—it hasn’t happened, I’m lucky, but I have to really be mindful. My mom just turned 100 and her eye health is a big part of her routine. I take her to the eye doctor and we’re on the lookout for that wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration. It hasn’t happened, she can look across the room and tell me, “It’s 9 o’clock, time for my breakfast,” and I’m thrilled.

It’s so important to make sure that your eye health is okay.

If you go on the website, I can’t tell you how important it is, you’ll find things like the Amsler grid. You can put it on your refrigerator, and you can test your own eyes. Take note of when your eyes or vision starts to alter. People try to say, “Oh, I’m older” and that’s not the answer.

What have you learned from your own mom? What has she brought you?

My mom has brought me and my sister the sense of the power of our minds. That your mental capacity is what fuels the rest of your whole world. On her birthday, Phylicia and I collaborated with Clemson Press– Clemson University Press and we republished her book, “Hawk”. You can
get it now, on Barnes & Noble, and a few places. It’s just a blessing to have momma—our greatest inspiration and our biggest critic.


She’ll say, “Oh, that outfit honey, you didn’t have any sex appeal.”

You need that honesty in your life.

Yes, you need it. So, mom is a blessing and Phylicia and I–and my brother Tex and my brother Hugh—we’re just thrilled.

Every time we see you, and your sister as well, there’s just this energy that you radiate. You’re always smiling and you’re always glowing. Where does that come from?

I honestly think it’s inherent to how we were raised as children. We were raised with a lot of compromises, with segregation and all these problems in the 60’s. But momma always raised us to be children of the universe and that there were no boundaries. So, when we face challenges, we just stuck with it, and we leaped and bound and kept going. That’s it, we have a positive attitude.

It shows.

We’ve been teasing all morning that we’re going to teach Al Roker how to dance. Can you teach an old man new tricks?

Woah, I’m glad you cleaned that up. (Laughter)

Well yeah, I will teach you Al, if you promise to go on the website. Do you want to do it now? I’ll teach you a little salsa music, I gave them a couple of cues. If you count to 3, you can dance.

Source: TODAY Show

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