Emmitt Perry, Jr., now known as Tyler Perry, one of the most successful African-American filmmakers and entertainers, was born on September 13, 1969. With a life that began in struggle, Perry rose through the ranks to become one of the most influential personalities in the entertainment industry with his plays, television shows, and feature films. His signature character ‘Madea,’ an outspoken African-American grandmother, is partly responsible for his massive success. One of “TIME Magazine’s” most influential people of 2020, he has also won several awards for his works. Celebrate his birthday with more insights into his life and successful career.
Emmitt Perry, Jr.
September 13, 1969
Perry has quickly risen to the top, becoming one of the most significant African-American superstars and motivating admirers and followers. He was born Emmitt Perry Jr., one of four children born to carpenter Emmitt Perry Sr. and Willie Maxine Perry on September 13, 1969, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He suffered abuse from his father and even tried suicide to escape the beatings he endured. To distance himself from his father, Perry legally changed his name to ‘Tyler’ at 16 and dropped out of high school. Later, while working various jobs to support himself, he received his G.E.D.
Perry’s beginning in the world of showbiz started in 1990 when he moved to Atlanta and used his savings of $12,000 to finance a community theater staging of “I Know I’ve Been Changed.” The play received a poor response, and over the next few years, he reworked it. It was in 1998 that he returned with an improved version of the musical and restaged it in Atlanta while touring with the Chitlin’ Circuit. He continued to write new plays, staging them across the U.S. and building a large audience among the African-American community. His most well-known creation, ‘Madea,’ a fierce and opinionated African-American grandmother, was first featured in these plays. Perry established himself as a successful writer, director, actor, and producer over the following seven years, raking in record-breaking sums of money from tickets, videos, and merchandise.
In 2005, Perry went on to write and star in his first feature film, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” based on his character Madea. Close to the success of the movie, Perry made his directorial debut with the second movie of the series, “Madea’s Family Reunion,” and also authored his first book that year, “Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea’s Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life.” Later, he directed and produced films for Lionsgate Entertainment, including “Why Did I Get Married?” in 2007 with Janet Jackson. He created the African-American family-focused sitcom “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” in 2008. Then, in 2009, he co-starred and directed the box office success “Madea Goes to Jail,” which was his most outstanding debut to that point. He continued to produce, write, and act in Madea films while appearing in other critically acclaimed and financially successful films like “Star Trek” in 2009, “Gone Girl” in 2014, “Vice” in 2018, and “Don’t Look Up” in 2021.
In addition to getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019, he also opened a new studio in Atlanta, the location of several well-known television and film productions, including “The Walking Dead” and “Black Panther.” Then, in 2020, “TIME Magazine” included him in the list of 100 most influential people. He was also honored with the ‘Governor’s Award’ at the Primetime Emmy Awards the same year, and in 2022, he was inaugurated into the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame.
Perry has continued to capitalize on his quick ascent to popularity to further the causes important to his neighborhood. While supporting stars such as Idris Elba in their early days in the entertainment industry, he has also contributed to philanthropic causes, working for the homeless and the marginalized. Perry’s personal life also makes the headlines, and he is currently in a relationship with model Gelila Bekele. He is also great friends with Oprah Winfrey, whom he sees as inspiring. As Perry continues to churn out more great content, his fans will look forward to more entertainment shortly from his studios.
The musical “I Know I’ve Been Changed” is performed for the first time at a community theater in Atlanta to a lukewarm reception.
After reworking “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” Perry restages the musical across the Chitlin’ Circuit, which becomes a popular success, earning him millions.
Using the money generated from ticket sales of his plays, Perry writes, produces, and stars in his debut feature film, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”
The sequel to his first feature film, “Madea’s Family Reunion,” marks Perry’s directorial debut and is a massive box office hit.
Perry launches his studio in Atlanta across a sprawling area.
“Madea Goes to Jail,” the fourth movie featuring his popular character Madea, opens at number one and becomes his largest opening to date.
In a break from his role as Madea, Perry is cast as the lawyer of Ben Affleck’s character in the Academy-Award-nominated movie.
Having earlier announced in 2021 that he would no longer make movies based on the Madea cinematic universe, Perry pulls the character out of retirement for his second Netflix venture.
Why We Love Tyler Perry
His stories are multi-faceted
Perry’s entertaining plays and shows portray people of color in their different facets, breaking the barriers of class to reveal interesting aspects of their lives. His stories also tend to feature the theme of second chances and new beginnings, which resonates with his audiences.
He makes people laugh
His over-the-top, sometimes bizarre shows and movies may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they certainly get people laughing. His shows' comic timing and dark humor are impeccable and certainly enjoyed by fans.
He supports his community
Having struggled to rise to the top, he is always lending a helping hand to other members of his community. He has launched and supported many African-American artists during their initial days in the entertainment industry.
5 Surprising Facts
He started writing because of Oprah Winfrey
Perry was inspired by Winfrey’s advice on her show to write things down and soon after began to keep a journal, using different names for characters to keep things from getting known.
He quit school after an argument
In high school, Perry got into an argument with a counselor and was suspended, which led him to drop out.
He once slept in his car
Before he became famous, Perry was often so broke he had to sleep in his car, a Geo Metro.
He financially supported his father
Even though he did not have a good relationship with his father, Emmitt Sr., he went on to support him financially, partly because his mother had asked him to.
Oprah Winfrey is his son’s godmother
A long-time friend, Winfrey is the godmother to Perry’s son with former girlfriend Gelila Bekele.
Tyler Perry FAQs
Is Tyler Perry still married?
No. Perry has never been married.
How did Tyler Perry get so rich?
The actor, producer, and entertainer has made his fortune from record ticket sales, videotaped performances, and merchandising, aside from his earnings from television and movies.
Does Tyler Perry have kids?
Yes. Perry has one son, Aman Tyler Perry, with his former girlfriend, Gelila Bekele.
Tyler Perry’s birthday dates