Formerly 'Poor as Hell' Tyler Perry Now a Billionaire

He says ownership made all the difference
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 2, 2020 12:07 PM CDT
Formerly 'Poor as Hell' Tyler Perry Now a Billionaire
Tyler Perry poses for a portrait in New York on Nov. 16, 2017.   (Photo by Amy Sussman/Invision/AP, File)

Tyler Perry, who grew up poor in New Orleans and spent much of the '90s as a penniless—and sometimes homeless—playwright, is now officially a billionaire. The 50-year-old actor and filmmaker has been added to the list of billionaires at Forbes, which estimates he has made more than $1.4 billion in pretax income since 2005 and currently has a net worth of $1 billion. CNN notes that Perry is the first African American to independently own a studio. He also, unusually in the entertainment business, owns all his creative output, including 22 movies and more than 1,200 TV episodes. "Ownership for me was easy because I was underestimated," he says. "They said, 'Sure, you can own it.' They didn't think it'd be worth anything."

"I love when people say you come from 'humble beginnings,'" Perry tells Forbes. It "means you were poor as hell." He spoke to the magazine at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, the site of a former Confederate military base. "I own the lights. I own the sets," he says. "So that’s where the difference is. Because I own everything, my returns are higher." Perry—who has rented studio space to major productions including Black Panther—plans to build a theme park-like experience at the site, along with housing for trafficked woman and LGBT youth. (In 2018, Perry had a big Christmas surprise for customers at two Atlanta-area Walmarts.)

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