by BOTWC Staff
Most of us were introduced to Tyler Perry through his Madea movies, which were usually sold by the neighborhood’s “movie man.” He’d stop by the barbershops and hair salons with perfume, tasers, jewelry, and Tyler Perry’s newest play. Before Perry made it to the big screen, he was singing songs and reciting Bible scriptures on stage. You’d hear the audience laughing and even catch the actors trying not to. At the time, no one else was doing what he was doing: writing the script, casting the actors, and acting in the play. He was creating opportunities and knocking down doors for himself and other Black writers and actors.
Although a man who cross-dressed was often a controversial topic in the community, Perry’s Madea plays always instilled hope, joy, and renewed faith to anyone watching. He started tough conversations, inspired the dreamers, and shed a light on harmful things that are often brushed under the rug to keep the peace in the Black family. He made you laugh, cry, and heal wounds you didn’t know were still open.
30 years, 4 studios, 12 Madea films, and a billion dollars later, Tyler Perry is just getting started. The neighborhood’s “movie man” stopped selling his plays in hair shops because Madea moved to the big screen! Diary of a Mad Black Woman, the only Tyler Perry scripted film that was not directed by Perry and the first of the 12 Madea movie franchise, was released in theaters in February 2005. Starring Kimberly Elise, Shemar Moore, Cicely Tyson, Steve Harris and, of course, Tyler Perry, it tells the story of betrayal, family, and finding love after you’ve lost it. He would go on to write and direct 11 more movies, with two being released in 2009 and the last one being released at the beginning of this year. After the success of his second movie, Madea’s Family Reunion, Tyler Perry opened Tyler Perry Studios (TBS), a film production studio in Atlanta, GA and the first film studio in the country to be solely owned by an African-American. With a revenue of roughly $907M, TBS currently produces shows and movies for BET, Nickelodeon, OWN, and Netflix.
Tyler Perry’s success has not gone unnoticed. In 2001, he received his first award, the Helen Hayes Award for Excellence in Theater. 3 years later, he was the recipient of the Black Business Professionals Entrepreneur of the Year. The same year his first movie was released, it earned 5 BET Comedy Awards between him, Kimberly Elise, and Darren Grant. Diary of a Mad Black Woman also earned him two Black Movie Awards between him and Kimberly Elise. The movie debuted at #1 in the U.S., was nominated for Best Screen Play, and even earned Perry a MTV Movie Award. In 2006, it won two NAACP Image Awards between Kimberly Elise and Cicely Tyson. This was also the year his second movie debuted at #1 in the U.S. The following year, Why Did I Get Married? debuted at #1 in the U.S. and was nominated for two NAACP Image Awards. His tv series, House of Payne, won three NAACP, one for Outstanding Comedy Series, in 2008. It would go on to earn four more NAACP Awards the following year, the same year Madea Goes To Jail debuted at #1 in the U.S. He would go on to be recognized every year until 2015 before getting a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Humanitarian in 2017. He earned both a Hollywood Walk of Fame star and a BET Ultimate Icon Award in 2019. His latest award is the Governors Award by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences that he received in 2020.
Today, Tyler Perry is on his fourth film studio in Atlanta, GA, each one bigger and better than the last one. According to him, his second studio taught him to build for where he was going and not where he was at, but it was his third studio that showed him what it would take to run a huge business. His newest studio stretches across 330 acres of land; according to NBC News, it was once Fort McPherson, a deactivated Army base built by slaves and once used by the Confederate government during the Civil War.
“To have me be the owner of that very land that people were plotting and planning on how to keep 3.9 million Negros enslaved on, be owned by one Black man,” Perry said, “I think about those people — the ancestors — and what they must think if they could know that. Like, what would that feel like?” He told Gayle King, co-host of CBS Mornings. The studio holds 12 sound stages that are named after “African-Americans who really inspired me,” Perry said, including Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Cicely Tyson and Sidney Poitier.
We’re beyond proud of Tyler Perry’s evolution, and we wish him at least 30 more years of success!