Words by Tinashe Zvobgo
I guess my fascination with Tyler Perry began in 2013, which coincidently was the same year I started listing to Nipsey Hussle. How exactly are they connected? The late great Nipsey Hussle regularly spoke about the importance of artists owning their masters. Perry was similarly outspoken on the matter.
First, a brief introduction to the man himself. Tyler Perry is a renaissance man. He has worn the
hat of actor, director, writer and producer within the notoriously difficult film industry. By
utilising his unique life experiences, he managed to form an extremely loyal fan base that has
allowed him to build a formidable media empire. Perry now stands as the keeper of one of the
largest film production studios in America, and the first African-American with outright
ownership. In 2020 he was recognised by Forbes for accumulating over $1bn dollars in assets.
His achievements are made even more impressive when won looks to his formative years. Perry
has described how he used to play characters and mimic voices in order to make his mother
laugh and temporarily forget the violence inflicted upon them by his father. It was in those
moments that Perry realised that the arts presented an opportunity to escape reality.
This initial exposure to the powers of the arts, although he did not have any formal training led him learn the different aspects and skills required to put on stage shows. Through trial and error he slowly learnt the ins and outs of show business. His childhood finding ways to make his mother and her friends laugh helped him to develop one of his earliest characters Medea. The path to stardom was by no means guaranteed at this point.
What makes Tyler Perry such a unique talent? His ability to perform more than one role when it
comes to content creation. He became good friends with Oprah Winfrey and like any good
businessman, learnt. In a Forbes interview, he explained that Oprah emphasised the importance
of him owning his content. Once he had found his audience he doubled down and continued to
build a very loyal fanbase. When he approached studios with ideas, they viewed them as a risk.
Through his experience of putting on stage shows, Perry was well aware that there was a gap in
the market for content specifically for African-Americans. He took advantage of the studios lack
of foresight when they allowed him to keep control of his content (believing there would be
little return). This was made clear when his debut feature film ‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman’
produced more that $50m at the box office with a budget of less than $6m. His belief in himself, along with his relationship between him and his audience, paid off in abundance.
This first experience of the importance of control of content was something he carried on
throughout his entire career. In 2019 he celebrated the grand opening of a new studio in
Atlanta, one of the biggest in America. Perhaps one of his biggest deals to date is the deal he
has inked with BET to write and produce shows for the network. He will be allowed to produce
everything in house with control over the content and profits.
This original content will stream exclusively on BET’s new app providing him access to his key audience in one of the most popular ways of consuming media.
Tyler Perry, Entrepreneur, Producer, Actor, Screenwriter, Director, Inspirational…..GOAT.