Tyler Perry was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, as Emmitt Perry Jr. the son of Willie Maxine Perry 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.
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.
Tyler Perry did not complete high school. 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, which became the basis for the musical, I Know I’ve Been Changed. Around 1990, Perry moved to Atlanta, where two years later I Know I’ve Been Changed was first performed at a community theater, financed by the 22-year-old Perry’s $12,000 life savings.
The musical initially received a “less than stellar” reception and was a financial failure. Tyler Perry persisted. In 2011, Forbes named him the highest paid man in entertainment; he earned $130 million between May 2010 and 2011.He is known for both creating and performing the character of Madea.
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 stayed on the list for 12 weeks. It was voted Book of the Year, Best Humor Book at the 2006 Quill Awards.