Hollywood icon Debbie Allen isn’t letting the challenges of 2020 come in the way of her passions.

The actress, director, and choreographer continues to bring her positive energy and unstoppable spirit wherever she goes. When Allen was forced to shut down her beloved Debbie Allen Dance Academy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she made her lessons virtual and was able to expand her reach globally.

"I had, like, 35,000 people in my first class around the world, and that was a message to me that what we do here is essential and needed," said Allen.

When she was finally able to open back up for in-person dance classes, Allen wasted no time rehearsing with her students for her 20th annual Light’s Up Gala. This year, the gala was performed in the Rose Bowl's parking lot, with audiences watching safely both from their cars and online.

On this episode of LA Stories with Giselle Fernandez, Allen opens up about her rise to fame, from a young girl who was not allowed in dance class because she was Black, to a Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning Hollywood legend.

Allen explained to Fernandez that the struggles she faced in life fueled her desire to make it as an entertainer. Today, Allen is the subject of a new Netflix documentary by Shonda Rhimes called Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, which chronicles the creation of her holiday classic.

"It’s done so beautifully, surrounded by positive light," said Allen. "It gives you hope when you see these beautiful, beautiful people dancing."

She has no plans to slow down and, now more than ever, continues to use the arts to empower young people and spark the conversations on social justice. Allen believes that the difficult challenges and losses of 2020 are serving a greater purpose.

"I think things are happening because it had to happen, and it's devastation for so many. But in the devastation, we will rise as a nation. We will rise as a people."