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Tyler Perry - A Man of Many Faces

Updated on January 20, 2016

Actor, Director, Screenwriter, Author...

Bleak Beginnings

Emmitt Perry, Jr, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, named after his father, a construction worker who was a violently abusive parent. The family consisted of three siblings and his mother Willie Maxine Perry. Perry Sr's only answer to disciplining his children was to beat whatever ailed them out.

In an effort to escape this abusive cycle Perry even attempted suicide. Despite his nightmarish home life his mother took him to church each week as a refuge. At age 16, Emmitt legally changed his name to Tyler, this was one way to gain control of his life and distance himself from his father.

One of his most recent pieces "Precious" brought back terrible childhood memories of seduction by a friend of his mother at the age of 10, molestation by another friends father and finding out that his own father was molesting a friend.

Tyler earned his GED and in his early 20's, while watching an Oprah segment, heard someone describe the therapeutic effects of writing. This particular interview inspired Perry to write and also write a letter to himself about his life. This assisted him in putting to rest demons that he struggled with since his childhood. Helped him to stop playing the blame game and get on with living his life.

Perry's Tenacity Pays Off

1990 Perry moved to Atlanta, where is first musical was performed at the tender age of 22 years old. The theme of the musical was geared toward the Christian teachings of forgiveness, self dignity and self worth, while addressing issues such as child abuse and dysfunctional families.

Unfortunately, the piece was received with lackluster reviews. During the next 6 years Perry retooled, reworked, re-wrote the musical several times, and still received less than stellar reviews. Tyler's determination to succeed as a playwright helped him survive extreme poverty, hunger and homelessness. Even though this period was bleak for Perry he became active at a local Christian church doing what he could to help others less fortunate.

Finally in 1998 Perry's mother voiced her concerns about his future and where his life was heading. It was then that Perry decided to retool his musical one last time. The final attempt was a success, and soon began playing to sellout audiences. Strangely enough his successful hit performances took place in a former Atlanta church (as if a higher power were involved) that had been turned into a theater.

Mable "Madea" Simmons

Mable "Madea" Simmons was created by Perry in 1998 after his first success, and is one of his most popular, endearing characters. A wise, sometimes not always law abiding, black matron full of wisdom and mother wit. She's a mixture of Tyler's mother and aunt. A character who is known to carry a bag full of belts, and will not hesitate to use them in an effort not to "spare the rod" and therefore spoil her children.

Ms. Simmons made her first appearance on stage in "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" with Tyler Perry playing the part in drag, all 6' -5" of him very convincingly. Other characters have been played by Perry including "Uncle Joe" who is based on his father. Tyler will alternately play these characters in one movie as a source of comic relief while the story continues to tackle more relevant and serious issues facing people today.

Well Deserved Success

In 2005 Tyler Perry received national celebrity status with the release of "Diary of a Mad Black Woman".

  • 2006 Madea's Family Reunion
  • Daddy's Little Girls
  • The Family That Preys
  • Meet the Browns
  • Madea Goes to Jail
  • I Can Do Bad All By Myself
  • Why Did I Get Married
  • Why Did I Get Married 2

Perry also has television creds with "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" and "Meet The Browns". His first novel "Don't Make a Black Woman take Off her Earrings; Madea's Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life", appeared on April 11, 2006. Sold more than 25,000 copies and remained on #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List for 12 weeks.

Tyler Perry has some very vocal critics who call his work minstrel like or uncle Tom, but I for one am proud to be one of is most avid fans. His movies are filled with Christian love, joy and the ugly realities of life. I buy his movies without watching them first because I love his work. I as others, buy the soundtracks to his movies, Tyler also writes some of the songs in his movies.

Tyler has gone from homelessness to a worth of over $400 million. In July 2009 he sponsored 65 children from a Philadelphia day camp to go to Disney World after reading that a local swim club had shunned them. Perry wrote on his website "I wanted 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."

Perry owns a movie and television studio in Southwest Atlanta, counts among his friends, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith and Bishop T.D. Jakes. As for his critics the numbers show how many people love his work.

My question to his critics . . what have you done lately that is of any worth, how many black talented actors / singers have you given work, a break, or jump started a failing career? His plays and other media vehicles have boosted the career of a lot of black actors who are unable to find work in mainstream Hollywood. You can try to ruin his career with your disparaging remarks, but the multi-talented Mr. Perry is whistling all the way to the bank.

Beside being a fan, I love this mans Christian love for people and how he tries to bring back the mores of old to respect and love each other as human beings. His movies make you laugh, cry, and sometimes relieves the pent up anger in our lives. This is why I added him to my list of greats for Black History month.


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    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 5 years ago from Utah

      This is what true good entertainment is all about. A feel good movie should make you feel good. We haven't had too many movies that help us flush those emotions. Many of God's blessings to you too my dear.

    • profile image

      Musette G.Buckley 5 years ago

      I laughed 'til I cried when I saw Diary of a Mad Black woman in a nursing home with my son. He also laughd with me ...coming out of a long term DEPRESSION.

      It was so REAL .......and guess what I am a Great Great Granddaughter of the Confederacy Gospel music ....the Nevilles .......etc. God bless you!

    • erikasreview profile image

      erikasreview 6 years ago from Lancaster, CA

      Tyler Perry exudes what means to work hard and never give up!!!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 6 years ago from Indiana

      I also just read a big article on Tyler Perry in a magazine- I was quite impressed with his story - very inspirational!

      I had no idea that he had written a book. Thanks for listing it - I'm going to check it out!

    • trusouldj profile image

      trusouldj 7 years ago from Indiana

      All of the humanitarian things he does and the dramatic messages he gets through his work more than makes up for some of his over the top characters. I wish the critics would just leave him alone.

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 7 years ago from Utah

      jagandelight - thank you so much for taking the time to read this piece. I too, as if you couldn't tell, am a fanatical fan of this man. He comes from such abusive horrendous beginnings and still managed obtained his dreams with the love of God and a sense of humor. His life story gives you hope.

    • jagandelight profile image

      jagandelight 7 years ago from Florida

      Nice piece on Tyler, I like the man very much he is handsome as he is talented. I like his movies because they are clean no foul words, they portray what young black men and women are facing and he does it in style. I especially like the movie black angry female because it shows how she overcome adversity through her faith and with the support of her family and she recovered to let love in.

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 8 years ago from Utah

      Hey Tammy: Thank you so much for the read and comment. You know you're never to old to learn or inspire, and this young man has inspired this old goat that just maybe she had a book in her. Thanks again

    • profile image

      Tammy Lochmann 8 years ago

      I really admire Tyler Perry he is a very gifted person. He is also very likable. I have seen him on Oprah quite a few times. Great story!

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 8 years ago from Utah

      Creativeone59 and micky Dee: thanks for stopping by. I thoughly enjoyed writing this piece because Tyler Perry is an inspiration to me.

      Blessings to you both

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 8 years ago from Utah

      BKcreative; My mother said if blacks what their story told they would have to do it themselves. Tyler is doing just that and you are so right the big corporate studios didn't want anything to do with him now the tables have turned. He's biggest dream is to have his own tv station, only a matter of time.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 8 years ago

      I never knew him. This is great. Thank you for showing him to me. Great hub.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 8 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you pmccray for a great Tyler Perry hub, I enjoyed reading it. thank you for sharing it. Godspeed. creativeone59

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Sometimes you have to do it ALL - and I do mean ALL of it by yourself. There is no way Hollywood would have given him a chance although now they totally run after him - but like Oprah - he wisely keeps control of his production company.

      I've watched all his/her movies - and one of the funniest things is that bag of belts - that you mentioned. I don't remember which movie but while some child was acting up Madea was calmly going through her bag of belts - to get...just the right one. Hilarious! So many trademarks he created for Madea.

      Great tribute to Mr. Perry - and a reminder that we often have to do it all to be successful - and not wait for someone to help us or discover us. And if you are a victim - not to keep secrets.