Tyler Perry (born Emmitt Perry Jr.; September 13, 1969) is an American actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, producer, author, and songwriter, specializing in the gospel genre. Perry was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, as Emmitt Perry, Jr., the son of Willie Maxine Perry (née Campbell) and Emmitt Perry, Sr., a carpenter. He has three siblings. Perry once said his father’s “answer to everything was to beat it out of you”. As a child, Perry once went so far as to attempt suicide in an effort to escape his father’s beatings. In contrast to his father, his mother took him to church each week, where he sensed a certain refuge and contentment. At age 16, he had his first name legally changed from Emmitt to Tyler in an effort to distance himself from his father. Tyler Perry’s inspirational journey from the hard streets of New Orleans to the heights of Hollywood’s A-list is the stuff of American legend. Born into poverty and raised in a household scarred by abuse. Many years later, after seeing the film Precious, he was moved to relate for the first time accounts of being molested by a friend’s mother at age 10; he was also molested by three men prior to this, and later learned his own father had molested his friend. A DNA test Perry recently took confirmed that Emmitt Sr. is not Perry’s biological father.
Tyler fought from a young age to find the strength, faith and perseverance that would later form the foundations of his much-acclaimed plays, films, books and shows. While Perry did not complete high school, he earned a GED. In his early 20s, watching an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, he heard someone describe the sometimes therapeutic effect the act of writing can have, enabling the author to work out his or her own problems. This comment inspired him to apply himself to a career in writing. He soon started writing a series of letters to himself. The letters, full of pain and in time, forgiveness, became a healing catharsis. His writing inspired a musical, I Know I’ve Been Changed, and in 1992, Tyler gathered his life’s savings in hopes of staging it for sold out crowds. He spent all the money but the people never came, and Tyler once again came face to face with the poverty that had plagued his youth. He spent months sleeping in seedy motels and his car but his faith – in God and, in turn, himself – only got stronger. He forged a powerful relationship with the church, and kept writing. In 1998 his perseverance paid off and a promoter booked I Know I’ve Been Changed for a limited run at a local church-turned-theatre. This time, the community came out in droves, and soon the musical moved to Atlanta’s prestigious Fox Theatre. Tyler Perry never looked back and so began an incredible run of 13 plays in as many years, including Woman Thou Art Loosed!, a celebrated collaboration with the prominent Dallas pastor T.D. Jakes.
In the year 2000, I Can Do Bad All By Myself marked the first appearance of the now-legendary Madea. The God-fearing, gun-toting, pot-smoking, loud-mouthed grandmother, Madea, was played by Perry himself. Madea was such a resounding success, she soon spawned a series of plays -Madea’s Family Reunion (2002), Madea’s Class Reunion (2003), Madea Goes To Jail(2005) – and set the stage for Tyler’s jump to the big screen. In early 2005, Tyler’s first feature film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, debuted at number one nationwide. His ensuing films, Madea’s Family Reunion, Daddy’s Little Girls, Why Did I Get Married?, Meet The Browns, The Family That Preys, I Can Do Bad All by Myself, Why Did I Get Married Too?, For Colored Girls, Madea’s Big Happy Family,Good Deeds and Madea’s Witness Protection have all been met with massive commercial success, delighting audiences across America and around the world. He also starred in the Rob Cohen directed Alex Cross and helped release Academy Award-nominated Precious, a movie based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire, in conjunction with his 34th Street Films banner, Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films and Lionsgate.
Perry’s first book, “Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea’s Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life”, appeared on April 11, 2006. The book sold 30,000 copies. The hardcover reached number one on the New York Times Best Seller list and remained on the list for 12 weeks. It was voted Book of the Year, Best Humor Book at the 2006 Quill Awards. (An unheard-of feat for a first-time author). However, he is one of the few that write yet people write about them; Melvin Childs’ “Never would have made it” is one of such masterpieces.
In 2007, Tyler expanded his reach to television with the TBS series House of Payne, the highest-rated first-run syndicated cable show of all time. His follow up effort, “Meet the Browns”, was the second highest debut ever on cable – after “House of Payne”. In late 2012, Perry teamed up with Oprah Winfrey in an exclusive deal to bring scripted programming to her cable network, OWN, and launched with the half hour sitcom, “Love Thy Neighbor”, and the hour-long drama, “The Haves and The Have Nots”, which made its debut in 2013. Not one to rest on success, Tyler Perry and his 350 Atlanta-based employees have been hard at work. His latest films include “Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor”, released in March 2013 and his 34th Street Films banner,” Peeples”, released in May 2013. In late 2013, Tyler starred in “A Madea Christmas”, adapted from his stage play by the same name. In 2014 he was seen in 34th Street Film’s production where he also directed, Single Mom’s Club and a new show for OWN entitled If Loving You Is Wrong, based on the film, premiered in the Fall of 2014.
Tyler most recently garnered rave reviews for his role opposite Ben Affleck in David Fincher’s box office hit, “Gone Girl”. On September 25, 2014, it was announced that Perry was expecting his first child with his girlfriend, Gelila Bekele. On November 30, 2014, Bekele gave birth to their son Aman Tyler Perry.
Perry describes himself as a Christian. Many of the themes in his work reflect theology and social behavior indicative of the predominantly Black Church culture, such as the many scenes in both his stage and screen work that feature church settings and worship styles commonly found in predominantly African American churches, including showcases of gospel artistes and artists.
Listen to Tyler Perry and you’ll hear a man who hasn’t forgotten about the people that have helped him reach the top of a mountain he could once only dream of climbing. He has been intimately involved and donated generously to civil rights causes through work with the NAACP and NAN. He also strongly supports charities that focus on helping the homeless, such as Feeding America, Covenant House, Hosea Feed the Hungry, Project Adventure, and Perry Place – a 20-home community that Tyler built for survivors of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. In January 2010, Perry pledged $1,000,000 via The Tyler Perry Foundation to help rebuild the lives of those affected by the earthquakes in Haiti. On July 20, 2009, Perry sponsored 65 children from a Philadelphia day camp to visit Walt Disney World, after reading that they had been turned down. He wrote on his website, “I want them to know that for every act of evil that a few people will throw at you, there are millions more who will do something kind for them”.
Tyler Perry is definitely one of the lights in our present generation and in this month of April we celebrate him.