How Kenya Barris Went From Delivering Scripts To Actress Jackée Harry To Building A $75M Empire
The 1990s was an epic era. In addition to the fashion and chart-topping R&B groups, the decade gave the world some of television’s best Black sitcoms. From classics like “Living Single,” “A Different World,” “Martin,” and the “Fresh Prince of Belaire” — Black representation was at an all-time high.
The conclusion of these shows left Black entertainment with a small void in the sitcom space. While some shows held it down, it wasn’t like the television takeover in the ’90s. Then comes “Black-ish,” a sitcom based on the suburban life of Andre Johnson and his family. It details the joys and challenges of navigating life while Black, particularly in a specific tax bracket. The brain behind this concept is Kenya Barris.
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Kenya Barris was born in Inglewood, CA, and established his love for media arts by graduating from Clark Atlanta University in 1996 with a degree in mass media arts. Upon completion of his degree, the 48-year-old went on to take up space in the industry by writing and working for hit shows like “Soul Food,” “Girlfriends,” and “Listen Up.”
But the writer and producer didn’t always walk on “easy street” while navigating his career. In a conversation hosted by Essence, television icon Jackée Harry admitted that she was not nice to Barris when he worked on the set of “227” delivering scripts.
Sheryl Lee Ralph and Jackeé Harry on learning to keep their egos in check. “You know who used to bring me my scripts from 227? Kenya Barris. I wasn’t nice to him. See, look at me now.” pic.twitter.com/22Vc9wLpV5
— Brande Victorian (@Be_Vic) January 4, 2023
Since those times, Barris was not only able to create an entire television universe with shows like “Mixed-ish” and “Grown-ish,” he was also a contributor on the big screen, too — having credits on “Girls Trip” and “Coming 2 America.” He was even able to circle back to Harry and share details about their interactions in the ’80s.
Harry recalling the interaction with Barris could be a testament to how hard work and perseverance pay off. Additionally, Kenya Barris’ accumulation of a $75 million net worth, as listed by Celebrity Net Worth, could be a testament as well.
And with no stopping point in sight, let’s look inside the empire Barris is building.
Barris has put his pen to paper on several shows he’s created. However, he’s also put his full support behind several projects, in which he served as the executive producer.
His producing credits include “Black AF” — a Netflix series loosely based on his real life — “Entergalactic,” and more.
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Rising Music Mogul
As previously reported by AfroTech, Barris announced the launch of a music label as a joint venture with Interscope Records.
Known as Khalabo Music — Kenya Barris, who is a husband and father of six — seeks to complete his artistic picture with this music venture.
“Kenya touches people in so many different ways, and he wants music to be part of that experience, so the conversation is not just about, ‘Let me find this one artist and make the best record,'” Interscope Geffen A&M Records Vice Chairman Steve Berman told The Hollywood Reporter. “He wants to find the artists and be able to plug music into his universe in many different ways. It’s the complete picture with him.”
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Under the umbrella of his production company, Khalabo Ink Society, Barris has signed multiple massive deals with media companies to expand his creative footprint.
According to a report by Variety, Barris inked a $100 million deal with Netflix to produce exclusive series for the company.
However, in 2021, The Hollywood Reporter noted that the creative star announced he was departing from his Netflix deal to take on a stake in BET Studios — a platform designed to “offer Black creatives an equity stake and a place to produce for outlets within and outside the media conglomerate.”
“Kenya Barris — who left a nine-figure Netflix deal for a stake in the venture — Rashida Jones and ‘SWAT’ co-creator Aaron Rahsaan Thomas will be principal partners in BET Studios. Former Warner Bros. TV executive Aisha Summers Burke will head the studio as executive vp and general manager,” the outlet reported at the time.
In 2022, Barris shared with The Hollywood Reporter that he made the right move.
“Everything worked out,” Barris said in an interview with the outlet. “I just got two shows on at Netflix. I have a movie, a very, very expensive movie at Netflix.”
Staying True To His Roots
According to the report, the “expensive movie” at Netflix that Barris is behind is called “You People,” starring Eddie Murphy, Nia Long, Lauren London, and Jonah Hill.