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Perry made history as the first African-America actor/director/writer/producer to own a studio outright with no partners or corporate backing, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
— ESSENCE (@Essence) October 6, 2019
Viola Davis told THR, “Tonight is history. Tonight is not just entertainment and flamboyancy, it’s not just an excuse to get dressed up. It’s an excuse to celebrate a historic moment which is a black artist taking control of their artistic life and the vision that God has for their life.” Adding, “What’s happened with us historically is we’re waiting for people to get us. We’re waiting for people to throw us a crumb. That’s not what Tyler Perry had done. I want to be able to look back on this and say ‘I was there.’”
Perry expressed to THR that “What it means is that I get an opportunity to pass it on to people. I get to share it. I get to inspire people and encourage them. That is what it’s all about. ”
— Ryan Cameron (@rizznye) October 6, 2019
In a room of about 800 guests, Perry highlighted one special person in attendance who influenced him: Winfrey. “In 2005, Oprah invited me to her Legends Ball,” he revealed. “I saw Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Tom Cruise, and Sidney Poitier, and I said, ‘What am I doing here?’ I didn’t know I said it out loud, but Yolanda Adams was sitting next to me and she said, ‘You belong here.’ By the end of the party, I said, ‘I’m going to dream bigger.’ It was something about being in Oprah’s house, being in her presence, seeing what a black person had accomplished — it really, really spoke to me.”
He told his audience of the impact he’d like to make at the studios’ grand opening. “If I can get you to leave this weekend feeling like I did that day, we’re going to change some major things in this world. Sometimes your dreams are on life support. You don’t know if you’ll make it, but being exposed to something bigger can give your dreams the life it needs,” he added.
“If I can build studios on this land that was once a confederate army base…” The crowd burst into applause, as Perry added, “We all get to stand here equally — black, white, whatever — this is the American dream.”
All guests were then given a tour of the 330-acre studio and each of the 12 soundstages, all named after iconic African American legends in the industry: Cicely Tyson, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belefonte, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Will Smith, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and the late Diahann Carroll.