Variety has named media titan Tyler Perry as this year’s Showman of the Year, not only for his contributions to the industry through his Tyler Perry Studios, one of the first to return to production amid coronavirus restrictions, but also for his dedication to social justice efforts.
“Just to try and use what I’ve been given — this platform [and] the gifts that I’ve managed to have — to celebrate and encourage and lift other people, that feels pretty awesome. I keep hearing the lyrics from ‘This Is Me’ [from ‘The Greatest Showman’] in my head,” he told Variety in this week’s cover story. The song is particularly significant to Perry, as he asked singer Morgan James to perform it during the opening of his studio complex in Atlanta last year.
Now that he is in a position of influence, Perry is hoping to give back, not only to the local Atlanta community, but also nationwide through his involvement in voter registration campaigns and support of presidential nominee Joe Biden.
“I really, truly don’t want to get political. What I want people to do is vote because everybody has very strong opinions about this. As do I,” he said. “I have very, very strong feelings about the current administration. I have very strong feelings about a lot that’s going on. But I’m neither Democrat [nor] Republican — I’m an independent thinker. I vote for who I think is best to run the country.”
And although Perry’s success has not come without criticism, including over what some deem as his films’ negative depictions and stereotypes of Black people, he remains steadfast in his goals and vision as a creative.
“I don’t know if people really realize how important it is for young Black and Brown children to be able to see examples of what it means to be successful outside of what they see in the neighborhoods,” he says. “Growing up, for me the only people that were doing well were the pimps and the preacher. And now to be able to set an example for kids that there are other options outside of sports and what everybody tells you — ‘These are the only things you can do’ — [is important]. You can be CEO; you can run a studio; you can use everything you have to help someone else.”