Tyler Perry Addresses Criticism Over Wearing Dresses to Play Madea: ‘It Was My Choice’

During his recent appearance on T.I.’s ExpediTIously podcast, Tyler Perry touched upon Dave Chappelle’s long-standing criticism towards an aspect of the entertainment industry, which he believes puts black men in situations where they need to wear dresses in order to be funny.

Since his character Madea made her theatrical debut in 2005’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Perry has achieved meteoric fame and immense wealth, inked partnerships with Oprah’s OWN Network and BET, and created the 330-acre Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, the first major film studio owned outright by a person of color. Perry’s life is a success story, but it’s one that has drawn scrutiny from people who believe the 50-year-old multi-hyphenate stooped to a level that Chappelle warned against. 

While he didn’t want to engage in a discourse with Chappelle over his past remarks, Perry said that it has always been his choice to wear Madea’s costume, which happens to include a dress.

“Listen, Chappelle is one of the most brilliant people I have ever seen in my life. Not just in comedy, but the man is smart. A heavy, brilliant thinker,” Perry said at around the 20-minute mark. “So, if that is the case in Hollywood, then, okay, that’s the case. But you gotta understand, that’s not my case.”

“Nobody owned that dress but me,” he continued. “Nobody told me—a $2 billion franchise, nobody told me to put it on. Nobody makes me put it on. It was all on stage. Black man owned the whole show, it was my choice.”

Perry explained that it was his choice to wear a dress for the first movie, and it continues to be his choice “19 movies since then.”

He also believes that his portrayal of Madea should be seen as him wearing the costume of a character that has made so many people laugh, and lifted their spirits.

“I’m not a man who enjoys wearing a dress,” Perry added. “For me, as an actor, it’s a costume. It’s like if somebody goes to work at Walmart, they put on their uniform. For me, that’s putting on a uniform, going out, and making people laugh. Lifting them up. Encouraging them. The good that it does for so many people.”

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