Just last week, the media mogul was spotted literally everywhere from Live With Kelly and Michael to theWatch What Happens Live clubhouse with Andy Cohen, promoting his latest film, A Madea Christmas. While we’re certainly familiar with his hustle and claim to fame, we seldom hear him defend himself from critics. During a recent appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show, the 44-year-old spoke very frankly about black people looking down on the ‘chitlin circuit’. He explained:
I was out on the road from 1998 to 2004, doing 300 and something performances a year all over the country, end to end. Before social media, I’m out at the end of the show saying,’Sign up for my mailing list, here’s my website’ and people are like, ‘What, you’re what?”… I had a few million people following me on my website, so I could send out an email and sell out arenas all over the country before we even advertised anything. Thats where it all started. It’s been the people.
He goes on to give some historical context of legendary black artists who were only able to travel in certain areas because of segregation.
Let me just say this about the chitlin circuit. A lot of times we as African American people we have evolved so much that we look down our nose at certain things.But what I found about this circuit it was so wonderful that Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, and all these people, Ella Fitzgerald who could not perform in white establishments, so they went on the road, in all these little small juke joints, with chicken fries and the chitlins and they traveled the country and they became so famous among their own people that they were able to support themselves and live well. Well, cut to 1998, I’m doing the exact same things, some 50 60 years later, traveling around to African American people they have made me so famous within my own culture that I couldn’t walk down the street without being recognized. Get to Hollywood, nobody knows my name, see what I mean?
But what I say to people is, do not despise you’re beginning, do not despise where you come from because God will plant you somewhere you can grow so strong and so tall, that as long as you don’t turn you’re back on who you are and where you come from and you hold very closely to that it will take all the way to where you wanna go.