Filmmaker, writer and actor Tyler Perry had made it big in Hollywood – but he never forgot where he came from. Nor did he forget LaShun Pace, who he’d worked with prior to his big-time breakout. So when he heard that Pace’s mom was in trouble, Perry didn’t hesitate to help in an incredible way.
Born Emmitt Perry Jr. in 1969, he later changed his name to create separation between himself and his father, who was abusive toward him as a child. Perry, from New Orleans, Louisiana, started writing after hearing about its therapeutic benefits on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show.
From there, Perry became so committed to writing that it turned into his career. He penned his first play, I Know I’ve Been Changed, in 1992. While it didn’t initially drum up the success he envisioned at the time, only six years later the same show would sell out theaters in Atlanta.
The profits from those theatrical productions helped Perry make the leap from stage to screen. He released his first movie, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, in 2006. And despite its small $5.5 million budget, the film raked in $65 million.
At the same time, Perry was also creating television shows that drew in huge audiences. Tyler Perry’s House of Payne premiered in June of 2006 and was the highest-rated sitcom in its first run ever. For that reason, the show went into syndication after just one season – and allowed Perry to create another show, Meet the Browns, which hit television screens three years later.
Then, in a full-circle moment, Perry struck a deal in 2012 with the Oprah Winfrey Network. It was Winfrey’s show that first inspired him to write, and his dedication to the craft ultimately earned him a multi-series development deal with her.
Throughout all of this, Perry’s rise to the top grew in tandem with his reputation for philanthropy. In 2006, the same year that he released Diary of a Mad Black Woman and House of Payne hit TVs across the US, the actor also launched The Perry Foundation.
The foundation’s website describes its mission simply. It works “to transform tragedy into triumph by seeding individual potential, supporting communities and harvesting real change.” The organization tackles issues including women’s rights, access to clean water, and improving health and education.
For instance, in 2009, Perry heard about a group of children from a Philadelphia day camp who had been turned away from a suburban swimming pool. So, the star footed the bill to send all of them to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Hollywood star Perry extended that thoughtfulness to both strangers and his friends, and soon LaShun Pace was to be blessed with his goodwill. She and Perry had met long before he was a household name. In 1999 the pair had worked on one of his stage productions together.
Pace paved her way to fame with her voice. She and her siblings had formed a gospel musical group, The Anointed Pace Sisters, in the 1970s. Later, she was signed to a solo deal with Savoy Records, with her song “I Know I’ve Been Changed” hitting the number two spot in the Billboard gospel charts.
Singer Pace took to Instagram to describe the experience of working with Perry on his play of the same name. “Twenty years ago a friendship was birthed,” she wrote, referring to herself and Perry. “The hit play I Know I’ve Been Changed [focuses on] two people working hard to survive and take care of family,” she wrote.
Working on the production meant a lot to Pace, she revealed. “I was recently divorced taking care of two girls, living with my sister Duranice. Thanks, [Perry], for the boost,” she concluded. And in September 2018 Perry would give Pace and her family an opportunity to move onward and upward once more.
At that time, Pace’s mother was battling stage five kidney failure, and she had already defied the odds in terms of her prognosis. Pace told TV station 11 Alive, “They gave her four days to a week to live. And she’s still living today.”
In the midst of her fight against her medical condition, Pace’s mom Betty Ann had the chance to meet Perry. And, during their chat, she told the Hollywood star that she had one last goal to accomplish.
Pace repeated her mother Betty Ann’s message to 11 Alive. “Before I die, I need a home for me and my daughters,” she had told Perry. And upon hearing the request, the star then got to work on making this dream a reality.
Footage recorded by Pace filmed the moment that her mother pulled up to a house wrapped in red ribbon. And It quickly became clear to the Pace family what Perry had been up to. “Tyler Perry, thank you son. Thank you for the house. God bless you,” Betty Ann said as she sat in a car in the garage of her new home.
The celebrating didn’t end there, of course. The family rolled Betty Ann’s wheelchair toward the front door, where a red ribbon was wrapped around the home’s entryway columns. And with a pair of scissors, the 80-year-old cut off the ribbon to inaugurate their new home.
Throughout the day, the Pace family continued to heap praise on Perry for purchasing the $350,000 property just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The family of gospel singers gathered in the garage to sing an original ditty with the lyrics, “Thank you, Tyler Perry.”
“God has granted me my wish,” mom Betty Ann said in the video recorded by Pace. Meanwhile, he daughter recalled the family’s humble beginnings. “We grew up in a three-bedroom, one-bathroom [house] with 12 people. We’ve struggled all our life,” she told 11 Alive. That made the new place all the more special. “It’s like a mansion in the sky,” Pace added.