Nigel Lythgoe was born in St. Helen’s, Lancashire, England. He and his family moved to Liverpool, where he began tap dancing at 11 years of age and went on to train in all other forms of dance. He became the only person to dance in, choreograph, direct and produce the Royal Variety Performance for Her Majesty the Queen of England.
He has worked with stars such as Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby, Cyd Charisse, Chita Rivera, Shirley Bassey and, most prestigiously, the Muppets.
Lythgoe has been a pioneer in reality television and a driving force in the world of performing arts as the co-creator, executive producer and judge on “So You Think You Can Dance,” which has won 11 Emmy Awards, and the executive producer of the TV juggernaut “American Idol,” which has been nominated for nearly 70 Emmy Awards.
Lythgoe produced the charity spin-off “Idol Gives Back,” which raised more than $170 million. In 2007, it received the prestigious Governors Award, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ highest honor. Additionally, Lythgoe was recently awarded the International Emmy Founders Award, presented to him in New York by Lady Gaga, recognizing him for his indelible imprint on the TV industry and a body of work that crosses cultural boundaries and speaks to our common humanity.
In 2009, the U.K.’s University of Bedfordshire awarded Lythgoe with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts for his outstanding contribution to the performing arts in television.
Also In 2009, Lythgoe helped to establish the Dizzy Feet Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to support, improve, and increase access to dance education in the United States in under-privileged communities.
In 2010, Lythgoe created National Dance Day. Recognized by a Congressional resolution, National Dance Day falls on the third Saturday in September and promotes dance as part of a healthy, active lifestyle.
On May 10, 2014, Lythgoe was awarded the Ellis Island International Medal of Honor. He previously served on the Board of Directors for The Music Center, LA’s Best, the USC Kaufman Board of Councilors, UCLA Health System’s Board, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Board, American Dance Movement Board and the Britweek Board.
Lythgoe was named on Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Honours List in 2015 and awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for his work in Education, Charity and the Arts. On July 9, 2021, Lythgoe received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.