Tyler Perry is an American actor, producer and director. He was born as Emmitt Perry Jr. on September 13, 1969, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He had three other siblings, and a very difficult childhood. His father was a carpenter and used to frequently physically abuse his family. Perry mentioned in later interviews how his father used to beat him and his siblings over ever trifling issue. Tyler was depressed growing up, and even tried to commit suicide to escape the harsh realities of his young life. However, his attempt was unsuccessful and he decided to separate from his family. At the age of 16, he left his father’s house, dropped out of high school and changed his name to Tyler to end any associations with his earlier life.
Perry later went back to high school and earned a General Equivalency Diploma (GED). He worked a number of odd jobs to make enough money to survive on. It was during this time that he turned to writing. Inspired by an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show, on which Oprah talked about expressing your feelings by writing them, Perry began to do the same. He began writing a series of letters to himself, in which he expressed his innermost struggles about life. Using this material, Perry consolidated and edited them to form the basis for his first show, a musical called “I Know I’ve Been Changed”. The show addresses many serious issues such as child abuse, and forgiveness for others. In order to finance the show, Perry began saving all the money he earned from working odd jobs, and eventually managed to save $12,000.
He used these savings to put on the first production of “I Know I’ve Been Changed” at a theatre in Atlanta. The show performed very poorly, only ran for one weekend, and only attracted a crowd of about 30 people. Having lost all his savings, Perry returned to working odd jobs. However, he did not give up on his dream and continued to put up performances of his play in different cities. None of these took off, and Perry was virtually bankruprt. At one point, he was living in his car because he’d lost his house. Things changed for him in 1998, when he returned to Atlanta to perform his play once again. This time, it sold out in no time, and he had to move the play to a larger theatre to accommodate larger audiences.
Quickly moving on to his next project, Perry then adapted a book by T. D. Jakes called “Woman, Thou Art Loosed” into a play. This also proved to be very successful. In 2000, he brought to life one of his most famous characters “Madea” in a play called “I Can Do Bad All by Myself”. He played the character himself, dressing up as a woman. Madea was a loose tongued grandmother wielding a gun. The play and the character were so popular that Perry reprised her in his next plays “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” in 2001, “Madea’s Family Reunion” in 2002 and “Madea’s Class Reunion” in 2003. The first two were later adapted to film and were also quite successful.
Some of his other Hollywood ventures include “Daddy’s Little Girls”, “Why Did I Get Married?”, “Meet the Browns”, “The Family That Preys” and “Madea Goes to Jail”. He has also directed a number of TV shows including “Love Thy Neighbor”, “The Haves and the Have Nots”, “For Better or Worse” and “If Loving You Is Wrong”. He had a supporting role in the popular movie “Gone Girl” starring Ben Affleck. He is also the author of the bestselling book “Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea’s Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life”.