Hollywood Mogul Tyler Perry
Tyler Perry is among the very few Black creatives that has thrived in Hollywood with an estimated net worth of $1 billion.
It’s no secret that, despite some inroads for diversity and inclusion in recent years, Hollywood has been a predominantly white industry. This puts Black creatives like Tyler Perry at a severe disadvantage to achieve success, let alone name recognition.
His success can be attributed to his ingenuity to cater to an often-neglected demographic of viewers in America: African Americans, and make it his niche.
Growing up poor under an abusive father with his family in New Orleans, Louisiana, young Perry used comedy as an antidote to his suffering. After dropping out of high school, he took on odd jobs that put him in close proximity to the entertainment world — like staffing at the Windsor Court Hotel which was home to the annual National Association of Television Program Executives conference.
By his 20s, Perry was touring small theaters that were willing to showcase his plays. Everything he learned about his comedic craft he learned on the go.
“You got to understand, I had no mentors,” Perry told Forbes. “My father doesn’t know anything about business, and my uncles and mother, they know nothing about this. I didn’t go to business school. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned in progress.”
His comedy plays — largely geared toward Black audiences — gained a following in the “Chitlin Circuit,” the network of small theaters in Black communities across the U.S. He ultimately succeeded in translating that popularity in the independent Black theater scene to Hollywood.
But it wasn’t easy. While Perry had a legion of loyal fans enjoying his comedy, he was still an African American unknown in white Hollywood.
No big-shot studios were going to take a chance on him. So, in 2006, Perry took the profits he gained from his theater success and invested it in shooting his own 10-episode pilot which became House of Payne.
The series turned out to be a hit for the CW network which bought the pilot from Perry. It also helped that Perry owned all the rights to the show, allowing him to directly reap the profits off a syndication deal at the larger TBS network for the same show later on. Perry raked in an estimated $138 million from that deal alone.
That 51-year-old owns the rights to much of his content — something not many Hollywoods creatives can say — has evidently worked in his favor. He has since written, produced, directed and starred in a number of shows and films including Diary of a Mad Black Woman, The Haves and the Have Nots, For Colored Girls, and the countless productions of his Madea franchise.
In addition to owning the entirety of his creative work, where the bulk of his wealth comes from, Tyler Perry also owns a 330-acre studio property — twice the size of the famed Warner Bros studios — and has a sweet deal with ViacomCBS that pays him $150 million annually for new content plus shares in the BET+ streaming service.