Tyler Perry has come a long way from his days as a homeless playwright. At 51, the entertainer has been officially declared a billionaire by Forbes after working his way up from the local theater scene to the owner of Tyler Perry Studios, a 330-acre studio lot at the edge of Atlanta, as well as 1,200 episodes of television, 22 feature films and more than two dozen stage plays.
Perry's $150 million per year deal with ViacomCBS that gives him an equity stake in BET+, as well as his financial control over all his creative output over the years, has earned him more than $1.4 billion in pretax income since 2005, Forbes estimates, which he used to buy homes in Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, as well as two planes, and puts his net worth at $1 billion.
Raised in poverty in New Orleans, Perry dropped out of high school and experienced homelessness as a struggling playwright before his career took off, which would lead to him being the first Black person to independently own a studio. "I love when people say you come from ‘humble beginnings,’" he told the magazine. "[It] means you were poor as hell.” It also led him to push for all he has now. "Ownership," he added, 'changes everything."
In 2015, Perry paid $30 million for his studio property, which he has since invested $250 million building a studio operation that’s now more than twice the size of the Warner Bros. backlot in Burbank, California. Building Tyler Perry Studios up with money he made over the years from his films, Perry first saw success on the big screen with Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which cost $5.5 million to make, grossed $51 million in theaters and has since brought in an additional $150 million in subsequent sales and licensing.
With Perry's character Madea becoming a smash hit, he produced 11 of the Madea movies in 14 years with quick production schedules and minimal budgets, grossing $670 million at the box office and netting Perry about $290 million in fees and profits before he retired the character in 2019, Forbes estimates. Even outside the Madea franchise, Perry has been a prolific entertainer, producing at least one feature film every year since Diary's premiere, as well as 13 more television series.
"You got to understand, I had no mentors," Perry said of his financial achievement. "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."