Born on September 13, 1969 in New Orleans, Louisiana, Tyler Perry (Emmitt Perry Jr.,) is the son of Willie Maxine Perry and Emmitt Perry Sr., a carpenter. Although Perry was raised in a two parent home the relationship between him and his father was very estranged. At the age of 16 he had his first name legally changed from Emmitt to Tyler in an effort to further distance himself from this 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 the age of 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 took in 2010 stated that Emmitt Sr. was not his biological father.
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 discuss how the therapeutic effects of writing can help a writer to work out his or her own problems. This comment inspired him to dedicate himself to a career in writing. He soon started writing a series of letters to himself which became the basis for his first musical, I Know I’ve Been Changed.
Newly established in the world of theater, Perry wrote thirteen plays over the next thirteen years, including Woman Thou Art Loosed and I Can Do Bad All By Myself which was the first appearance of the renowned character Madea. With the popularization of the God-fearing, gun-toting grandma, Perry made the leap to film in 2005 with Diary of a Mad Black Woman which debuted at number one in the United States. Then came Madea’s Family Reunion, Daddy’s Little Girls, Why Did I Get Married?, Meet the Browns, The Family That Preys and countless other celebrated hits.
In 2007, Perry expanded his reach to television with the TBS series House of Payne which was the highest rated first-run syndicated cable show of all time. The show went into syndication after only a year. 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 to bring scripted programming to her cable network, OWN and launched the half hour sitcom, Love Thy Neighbor and the hour long drama, The Haves and The Have Nots, which made its debut in 2013 and has continued to break ratings on the network.
In recent years, Tyler has stepped out from behind the camera, starring in several films including the Rob Cohen directed Alex Cross, David Fincher’s critically acclaimed Gone Girl and Paramount’s 2016 blockbuster, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Perry currently lives in Atlanta with his long time girlfriend Gelila Bekele. The couple share a son together.