Mariah Lindsey, Staff Writer
The past couple of weeks have been a massive success for media mogul Tyler Perry. Having directed and produced dozens of movies and television shows, many of which he has starred in himself as his infamous “Madea” persona, Perry has earned his recognition in the media industry. His accolades begin with his well past-due awarding of his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Oct. 1. An incredible feat, this comes as a major point in Perry’s career when the director was once facing abuse and homelessness.
Merely four days after having his name enshrined on the star-studded street, Perry debuted his state-of-the-art Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. Also of historic notoriety, Perry has become the first black individual to own a major film and production studio. The 330-acre film studio sits on former Confederate army base Fort McPherson, where he officially purchased the land in 2015.
Its opening night welcomed a star-studded lineup of influential black figures such as Academy Award winners Oprah Winfrey and Viola Davis, “When They See Us” and “Selma” director Ava DuVernay, entertainers Beyoncé and Jay Z, as well as activist and former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. Also honored were many actors who starred in Perry’s own plays, television shows, and films via Perry’s own “Walk of Fame” replica.
Among some of the studio’s components are soundstages named after trailblazing black actors who broke records and set a precedent for emerging black creatives. Sydney Poitier, the first black American to win an Academy Award for “Best Actor,” Cicely Tyson, Halle Berry, and Whoopi Goldberg are among a few.
Tyler Perry Studios also boasts a literal “town” filled with neighborhoods of model homes representing various eras in American history. Director Ava Duvernay shared video footage via Instagram with an inclusive tour of the complex. In the footage, viewers can listen to clips from the AI-narrated tour explaining which neighborhoods are used for Perry’s hit television shows and movies. Notable buildings are a near-perfect replica of the original “Madea house” in Georgia and a replica of the White House.
As with any prominent figure, Perry is not free of critique. His visibility has come with complaints of the portrayal of many characters, especially black women. This is understandable, as dismantling years of racist ideology is a challenging feat for one individual. Creatives are bound to miss the mark at times and especially so when the presence of black directors and producers are so few in American media.
Regardless, the impact his work has had on American media is undeniable. The mere two dozen or so years of Perry’s efforts as a producer has provided hundreds of opportunities for black actors and creatives. Black people are far from the dominant face in American media, so not only is it significant that Tyler Perry is a powerful figure committed to creating spaces for black people, but also that new budding personas feel empowered to commit to telling more diverse stories for all.