Hollywood stars came out in full force for the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.
The red carpet buzz surrounded Perry’s history-making as the first African American actor/director/writer/producer to own a studio outright with no partners or corporate backing.
A-list stars including Viola Davis, Ava DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry, Samuel L. Jackson, Tiffany Haddish and Stacey Abrams walked the carpet lined with walls adorned in roses and shared their admiration and support for Perry.
“Why did it take so long?” Goldberg wondered in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Why was he the first to get it? Now he’s the man who makes the decisions, chooses the movies, and he doesn’t have to ask anybody for shit. There’s nothing better than that. He’s never on his knees. He gets what he needs because he provided it.”
Davis also beamed with admiration. “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,” she said. “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 has done. I want to be able to look back on this and say ‘I was there.’”
Winfrey added: “Tyler is my little big brother. To see him rise to this moment that I know he’s dreamed about, planned, defined, clarify for himself, it’s just a fulfillment of a dream. It’s wonderful to see.
As for Perry himself, he talked to THR about the “God-given” opportunity to open his own studios: “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.”
Perry also touched on the legacy of the late Diahann Carroll, who died from cancer the day before. “Her level of grace, class and inspiration was just beyond anything I could ever imagine,” he said. “The very fact that we were able to have her on the planet at the same time as we are, we should all be very, very blessed.”
Following the red carpet, guests such as Diddy and his son Quincy were shuttled by trolley to a swanky cocktail reception where Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, T.D. Jakes, Usher, T. I., Jill Scott, and Patti LaBelle shared the room.
Tyler kicked off the reception by sharing a story of what inspired him to move to Atlanta in 1992.
“I saw black people doing well for the first time in my life. I saw black doctors, lawyers, and other professionals and thought, This is the promised land. I can make it here!”
At the time Perry lived in a weekly hotel on Buford Highway. He also reflected on the influence of his mother and God in his life:
“It was my mother who taught me about faith. No matter what hell was going on in the house, she taught me about faith and God,” he said. “Nobody is teaching kids enough about faith [today]. About how to pray your way through a situation rather than turning to drugs or some other alternative. If my mother hadn’t given me that, I don’t know where I would be.”
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.”
After another resounding cheer from the crowd, Jennifer Hudson sang Andy Williams’ “The Impossible Dream.”
However, Nigerians have also expressed their excitement to the massive achievement of Tyler Perry.
A twitter user wrote: “Tyler Perry ain’t joking around! His studio is a whole damn town! What in the world???!!!”
Another added: “Thanks to Ava’s insta story! I’m screaming. Tyler Perry’s studio is a whole Town! Even Oprah Winfrey was in tears. I want to visit this place somehow.”
@retsoamz wrote: “Wow wow wow…. if you don’t get any motivation from Tyler Perry… then I dont know….. @tylerperry. what a wonderful #MondayMotivation