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From “Poor as Hell” to Billionaire: How Tyler Perry Changed Show Business Forever

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From “Poor as Hell” to Billionaire: How Tyler Perry Changed Show Business Forever

Shut out of entertainment’s mainstream, Hollywood’s newest billionaire wrote, produced and starred in his own American success story.


5 min read
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What's inside?

How did Tyler Perry start “poor as hell” and become one of the world’s richest entertainers? Madea knows.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Concrete Examples
  • Inspiring


Forbes writer Madeline Berg tracks Tyler Perry from “poor as hell” to billionaire, a rise against all odds. Hollywood repeatedly undervalued and dismissed Perry, a Black writer, actor, director and producer. He takes readers on a tour of his new financial and creative kingdom outside Atlanta, the Tyler Perry Studios. His mantra – “Ownership changes everything” – explains how and why he always maintains control over his products and his business. Now, Perry’s work and his studio are changing lives far beyond his own.


Tyler Perry invented and polished a product everyone else deemed “low value,” and kept total control over it. 

Tyler Perry is on a mission. It may be a hot July in Atlanta in the middle of a global pandemic, but the writer, director and movie mogul has a deadline. He’s filming an entire season of prime-time television in 11 days. Put that in your pipe, Hollywood. Not that Hollywood ever understood Perry. Even Spike Lee at first dismissed Perry’s “crass slapstick approach” as clown-like, though he later came around. 

The 51-year-old playwright owns everything he ever wrote – at least 1,200 television show episodes, 22 feature films, 24-plus stage plays – as well as a new 330-acre studio lot on Atlanta’s southern edge, two airplanes, and homes in Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He made a deal to sell new content to ViacomCBS for $150 million annually, plus an equity stake in its new streaming service, BET+.

What sort of fortune has a once homeless Black child from an abusive background created? Forbes estimates his net worth at one billion dollars, which...

About the Author

Forbes reporter Madeline Berg specializes in the “intersection of Hollywood and money,” from media moguls to YouTube stars. Prior to Forbes, she covered media, food and education for the New York Observer. 

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