Christopher Polk/E! Entertainment/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
The champ is here! Tyler Perry took home the coveted People’s Champion award at the 2020 E! People’s Choice Awards on Sunday, honoring the 51-year-old mogul’s trailblazing career and deep commitment to philanthropy.
After a heartfelt introduction from Tiffany Haddish, Perry took the stage at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California, and was joined remotely, via walls of monitors, by all his employees and staff at his production studios in Atlanta, Georgia.
Perry's inspirational speech focused largely on the importance of dedication, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and unrelenting frustration.
Perry shared a story about a time, almost two decades ago, when he bought a home and needed to dig a well in his yard. He called out an engineer who started digging test wells, none of which successfully found a water reservoir. He spent a lot of time and an even greater amount of money digging wells that proved fruitless until eventually he demanded that the engineer just keep digging in one place, no matter how deep. However, after nearly 1000 feet, Perry said he was just about to throw in the towel again -- but it turned out that moment came when they were only four inches from water.
"Why am I talking about digging for water? In this world, we’re all digging wells, in our lives, digging wells in relationships, we put in time and effort and energy and sometimes it doesn’t give us what we need," Perry shared. "Time and effort and energy into dreams and business and it doesn’t give us what we were after."
"But if you just keep digging... you may be four inches away from every gift and every blessing you ever wanted in your life," Perry continued. "Had I given up when I was homeless, sleeping in my car, hungry, had I given up these people that you see on the screen right now wouldn't be part of my dream."
"Let me tell you something, listen to me, when you get there, to that water, and see it coming and know you have what you need, this is what I want you to always remember -- make sure that everybody you run into meets you at your worth," Perry concluded to resounding cheers.
In 2019, Perry celebrated the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, the first Black-owed major film production studio in the country. In the last 20 years, the New Orleans native has gone from battling homelessness to becoming a billionaire.
Perry’s impressive resume boasts nearly two dozen feature films, many of which he has written, starred in, produced and directed. Additionally, Perry has created multiple hit shows including BET’s Sisters and The Oval, The Haves and the Have Nots, House of Payne, and If Loving You Is Wrong.
“In a year of unrest and uncertainty, Tyler Perry proved a natural leader,” said Jen Neal, E! News General Manager of Live Events, Lifestyle Digital, in a statement announcing Perry as the People’s Champion award recipient. "From his pioneering efforts in successfully, and safely, restarting production and creating jobs at Tyler Perry Studios, to personally supporting charities and families in need, he continuously inspires hope in people. We are honored to present him with the People's Champion of 2020 Award."
When the pandemic hit earlier this year, Hollywood scrambled to come up with ways to avoid a total shutdown, but Perry once again proved to be a trailblazer. He turned Tyler Perry Studios into "camp quarantine," and implemented health safety measures to successfully complete multiple productions.
The People’s Champion award is the latest in a slew of accolades that Perry has earned this year, such as being named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020, and accepting the Governors Award at the Emmys. Perry was also recently honored with the Wall Street Journal's 2020 Entertainment Innovator Award.
“Winning the 'WSJ' Innovator Award means that I am the living witness to the hope that you can do anything that you want to do,” Perry said. “For me, I never thought about being an innovator, I never thought about breaking all the rules of what a normal comedy is, it was about following my own path of storytelling and doing the work.”