Tyler Perry is a singular entertainer, whose bona fides precede him. His inspiring journey of transcending abject poverty on the streets of New Orleans to scaling the heights of Hollywood’s A-list underscores why he is one of five individuals nominated for the 2021 NAACP Image Entertainer of the Year Award.
Perry, 51, the father of a son, has been writing, producing and acting non stop since before his breakthrough play, I Know I’ve Been Changed, in 1998. The success sparked a run of 13 plays in as many years, including Woman Thou Art Loosed!, a celebrated collaboration with the prominent Dallas pastor T.D. Jakes. In the year 2000, I Can Do Bad All By Myself marked the first appearance of his famous Madea character, which allowed Perry himself to take center stage giving rise to a series of plays, including Madea’s Family Reunion (2002), Madea’s Class Reunion (2003), Madea Goes To Jail (2005), and laid the groundwork for Perry’s move to the big screen.
Perry recently made the Forbes list of billionaires, and the trajectory of his career has no glass ceiling. But the essence of this man has always been one dedicated to helping others and that has not changed over the years. He has built a solid reputation as a generous philanthropic and cultural donor.
Here are 10 times the famously charitable mogul has inspired us to stay woke and do the most through his works and deeds.
Perry is a vocal proponent of racial and social justice. He wrote a poignant essay for PEOPLE magazine about the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, a critical inflection point in the nation. He did not mince words about police brutality, and the systemic racism that allows its pervasiveness in the nation.
“When I saw that video, I had so many raw, guttural emotions,” Perry said of body cam video from ex-officer Thomas Lane that shows how the 46-year-old was detained, frisked and then left begging for his life. “I felt for him and his family, I felt for all of us as Black people, I felt for my five-year-old son. As I watched with tears in my eyes, it brought back a flood of years of emotions from carrying what feels like the weight of racism on my neck."
The humble star received the Governors Award at a virtual ceremony of the Emmys in September 2020 in celebration of his “unprecedented achievements in television and his commitment to offering opportunities to marginalized communities,” according to the Emmys.
"I'm grateful for and humbled by this recognition from the Television Academy," Perry said at the time of his speech. "I've always prided myself on the work we do at the studio, our diverse representation of people from all walks of life, and the community we've built. My hope is that through moments like this we can remind others of the power of ownership and show that when the world doesn't offer you a seat at the table, you can build your own."
On October 5, 2019, he expanded his studio for the fourth time into what is now a 330-acre lot located on a former Confederate Army base in Atlanta valued at $280 million, according to Forbes. The studio, which is the first major motion picture production facility to be exclusively owned by an African American, is where Perry films his TV and film projects.
Perry, who owns the property outright, has created over 1,200 episodes of TV, 22 feature films and 20 plays over his career, PEOPLE writes. His beloved Madea franchise alone — 11 films over 14 years — has grossed over $670 million at the box office, Forbes estimates. In 2019, he accepted the Ultimate Icon Award at the BET Awards.
Perry has supported civil rights through large-scale and individual donations, making history in 2009 with the largest-ever individual contribution — $1 million — to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in celebration of the organization's 100 year anniversary.
The humanitarian has a history of paying rent, and expenses for funerals and college education of those in dire need. In one example, in the aftermath of the death of Rayshard Brooks, a Black man killed by police in Atlanta, Perry helped the family pay for the funeral expenses and volunteered to cover the college education for his four children. He also helped the family pay funeral expenses for Secoriea Turner, an 8-year old child who was killed during demonstrations against Brooks’ death in June 2020.
In April 2020, Perry helped ease the economic hardship caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by paying for all the groceries for elderly shoppers at 44 Kroger stores in Atlanta and 29 Winn Dixie stores in his native New Orleans.
In COVID-19 Vaccine and the Black Community: A Tyler Perry Special which appeared on BET, Perry sat down with top medical experts Carlos del Rio, M.D., Executive Associate Dean, Emory School of Medicine at Grady Health System, and Kimberly Dyan Manning, M.D. Professor of Medicine at Grady Health System to address the public's concerns and fears about the COVID-19 vaccine. In the half-hour special, the team doled out helpful and factual information for viewers seeking to protect themselves and their families from the pandemic.
In December 2018, the movie mogul covered $434,000 worth of layaways for an estimated 1,500 people at 2 Walmarts in Atlanta ahead of the holidays.
“I know it’s a hard time, a lot of people are struggling and I’m just really, really grateful to be able to be in a position to do this,” Perry said in the video, adding that his intention had originally been for his contribution to remain anonymous. “God Bless, go get your stuff, Merry Christmas.”
Founded in 2006, The Perry Foundation works toward helping to transform “tragedy into triumph by seeding individual potential, supporting communities, and harvesting sustainable change,” the website says. The foundation supports a variety of charities that help the homeless, including Feeding America, Covenant House Georgia, New Image Emergency Shelter and more, PEOPLE notes. “Perry also built Perry Place, a 20-home community in his native New Orleans for survivors of Hurricane Katrina.”
In April 2020, Perry went to a Houston's restaurant in Atlanta and left a $21,000 tip to help out-of-work restaurant workers during the pandemic. The amount worked out to be a $500 tip for each of the 42 unemployed servers, according to TMZ. Besides caring about the workers, Perry happens to be a big fan of the chain.
(Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)