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Tyler Perry Explained Why Courting Black Audiences and Securing Ownership Was Important to His Career Success

Tyler Perry in A Madea Homecoming
(Image credit: Tyler Perry Studios)

Throughout his career, Tyler Perry has felt like an outsider in Hollywood as he carved out his path as a multihyphenate away from the traditional film industry. But he wouldn’t have it any other way given his billionaire status. Before his multiple TV and film projects and sprawling studio complex, Perry was all about making content on his terms. After all his success, the A Jazzman’s Blues director explained why courting Black audiences and securing ownership was important to his career.

The idea of finding his niche was instilled in the media mogul from a young age. Tyler Perry recently revealed to AARP that his late mother had a distrust of white people from growing up in the Jim Crow South. Her distrust informed Perry’s outlook on creating content for Black audiences rather than pursuing Hollywood or Broadway. The A Madea Homecoming star explained how gaining success amongst his race was better than courting outside approval.

I grew up in Louisiana, and my mother grew up in the Jim Crow South. She didn’t have a healthy trust of white people. Because of the things she had endured — horrific things — she wanted me to know the value I had within me. I never felt like I needed to look outside of my own race for success. I knew that if I mined what was in our community, what I had in me, it would work.

Starting with plays catering to Black audiences worked out for him in the long run. His 2005 film Diary of a Mad Black Woman became a surprise hit for Hollywood after going from stage to screen. But it wasn’t a surprise to Perry after building up an audience since the early 2000s. While his mother’s words came from a place of fear, they instilled a sense of pride and community within the Black community.

Being underestimated by Hollywood worked in the entertainer’s favor. Even before the 2005 comedy-drama was released, the film industry had no faith in the film even telling Perry movies with Black stars won’t do well worldwide. The doubt worked out as the actor-director was able to retain ownership of his work. But shortsighted executives paid off for him in the long run.  

I was able to make some incredible deals by allowing people to underestimate me. I always played it small, listened to what they had to say and made the deal. I’d say, “Well, I’ve got to own it.” They’d say, “Oh, OK — whatever.” They didn’t think that my first film [2005’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which debuted at number 1] was going to amount to much. But the support I had from the audience that knew me — those voices, those standing ovations — gave me the confidence to understand that it’s a blessing to be hidden.

Knowing his lane and audience helped to make him the unstoppable force he is today. When Perry’s first film hit theaters, the film industry wasn’t catering to Black audiences with works featuring Black leads and storylines. And the film and TV producer has filled that niche for over a decade. His success doesn’t mean there isn’t a stigma in Hollywood after some big-name young stars turned down his latest movie. That said, Investing in an audience early allowed him to create his work without any interference from Hollywood.

Creating his lane has worked out for Tyler Perry in the years following Dairy of a Mad Black Woman. He has multiple TV shows on the air, including Sistas and Young Dylan, across multiple networks and streaming platforms. On the film front, he has a plethora of upcoming movies, including A Jazzman’s Blues. The period drama will arrive on Netflix on September 23, two decades after Perry came up with the story. in the meantime, viewers can watch some of the best movies on the streamer.

Adreon Patterson
News Writer

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).