Tyler Perry - A Man of Many Faces
Actor, Director, Screenwriter, Author...
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.