Debbie Allen On Living Her Best Life & Why Fashion Is Like Deodorant

Debbie Allen has worn many hats in her 30-plus year career — actress, choreographer, dancer, producer and activist. But this spring she will be putting on a pair of shoes as the face of Easy Spirit’s social campaign, “Living Your Best Life Now.”

The initiative, kicking off today, will follow Allen as she moves through her busy world while inspiring others to do the same. For Allen, who’s always on her feet as a featured character and director of the long-running TV show, “Grey’s Anatomy,” and running her eponymous non-profit dance academy, it’s all about comfort when it comes to her footwear.

”There was a time I wore heels, but right now it’s flats,” said Allen, about her footwear choices. “As you get older, the bunions come, or your feet start spreading, and you just want to feel good. You don’t want to have shoes that bite.”

As part of the campaign Easy Spirit is also recognizing other inspirational women as brand ambassadors, highlighting what inspires them in their own lives. The project will celebrate a variety of women: from single moms to body builders. The brand is also sponsoring a sweepstakes incentivizing consumers to share how they are living their best lives for a chance to win a grand prize worth over $5,000 that includes gift cards for JetBlue, Beyond Yoga, Massage Envy, among others, in addition to a spring wardrobe of Easy Spirit shoes. and a Fitbit Charge 3. The sweepstakes will launch mid-March and run from four to six weeks.

Easy Spirit is also partnering with Allen on the limited-edition Romy walking shoe. Part of the proceeds will benefit dance programming for women and cancer patients at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. The shoe launches in early June and will be available on Easyspirit.com, Zappos and other retailers.

Here, Allen shares her thoughts on how companies can better engage today’s mature female consumers and the role of women in the entertainment industry.

As a woman over 50, what do you think companies can do to better connect to this consumer group?

“I think they already doing it, but you just have to know where to look. Fashion is a very personal thing like perfume or deodorant. Everyone has their own [style]. You can’t say just because of an age people want to be like this or like that.  Dolly Parton wears six-inch heels every day, I have never seen her in a pair of flats —  ever, ever, ever.”

As a dancer focused on your feet. What do you look for in your footwear?

“My mother said, ‘beauty knows no pain.’ She’d be the first one to knock on my door wearing some bejeweled Dr. Martens. If I’m on the red carpet, she’d say wear heels. But, at the same time, you want to be comfortable. There are some designs that are friendlier than others. Suede shoes are very pliable for anyone with a foot issue. Then, you [can] find a design that has a wide [silhouette] that actually feels good. There’s not one answer. It’s very individual.”

How, if at all, has the role of women in the entertainment industry changed over the decades? 

“I don’t know if anything gets easier or more complicated. There’s more technology and always a new way of looking at things. Since I’ve often [been] the only woman and only black person in the room,  I’ve mentored many young women inspired by the work I do. They take my lead and then go beyond. When I took over directing ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ my first mandate, even before the #MeToo movement, was to decide that 50 percent of the episodes would be directed by women. I’ve held true to it, put more women in places they need to be. It’s a very important thing as we move forward that women continue to network with one another and keep doors open all around.  I’ve also hired more black men. There had never been a black man who directed an episode until I took over the job. So, you level the playing field all the way around. As a mother of a beautiful daughter, and a beautiful son, I’m looking at the world on all sides.”

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

”I directed one of the hottest pilots coming up called “The Ms. Pat Show” on Hulu. I’d be shocked if they don’t pick it up and order a couple of years [worth]. It’s so good. I’m also co-producing the Los Angeles International Dance Festival, held from April 11-26, with Nigel Lythgoe, a judge on ‘So You Think You Can Dance.” It’s 2 ½ weeks of non-stop dance concerts, lectures, films, etc. It’s the whole community [participating] in dance venues around L.A., including the beach, train stations, theaters.”

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