Hollywood mogul Tyler Perry is one of the greatest success stories in American history. Coming from extremely humble beginnings, the multi-hyphened superstar clawed his way out of poverty and is currently one of the wealthiest entertainers in the world. Perry recently sat down with rapper Killer Mike for his series Love & Respect on Revolt TV to discuss his journey and the things he has never forgotten along the way from his times heavy in the struggle. Let’s take a deep on Perry’s history and see how far he’s come from only having 60 cookies to eat for a week to owning one of the biggest production studios in the country.
Tyler Perry was born Emmitt Perry Jr. and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. One of four children, Perry’s parents, were Willie Maxine Perry and Emmitt Perry Jr. Tyler Perry has spoken very candidly about his father’s abuse throughout his career, causing a young Tyler to even consider ending his own life to escape his childhood. That trauma followed Perry for years and was the foundation of much of his work and desire to escape. He attributes so much of his success to where he came from, telling Killer Mike that he was “running so hard to get away.”
His life of struggle followed him into adulthood. Perry ended up getting the inspiration to be a writer from an episode of Oprah in which he overheard Winfrey and a guest discussing writing as a form of therapy. He took this to heart and began penning letters to himself, which would form the basis of Tyler’s first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” amongst other works. At 22, Perry packed up his life and moved to Atlanta to pursue his acting and writer dreams. Once he arrived there, it would be a painful two years before his stage debut. During this time, he opened up about being broke and even living out of his car for some time. Speaking with Killer Mike, Perry says these were the moments that most shaped him and fueled his passion for success.
Tyler Perry recalls a woman at the local Winn-Dixie being kind to him when he could not even pull together 80 cents for a pack of cookies. The actor recalls how the 60 pack of cookies would be all he had to hold him over for the week. That particular day, Perry could not seem to pull the change together and had a long line of people behind him waiting to check out. The actor recalled a woman stepping up to make the purchase for him. Perry tells Killer Mike that he wishes he could find her now to thank her before joking that a bunch of women are going to come forward now and say that they are her.
Times began to improve for Perry, who in 1992 was able to finance and produce the first performance of “I Know I’ve Been Changed” in Atlanta. He spent his life savings, at the time $12,000 to put on the show. He was not greeted with the most favorable reviews and spent the next six years retooling the play and revamping until he got it right. This was the foundation of his career and would eventually balloon into the scripts and plays that have made him a powerhouse of film and television.
Tyler tells Killer Mike about his Thanksgiving food drive last fall, where they helped up to 5000 families get turkeys for the holiday season. While there, Perry says an assistant told him that they should take a drive so he could see just how many people showed up. Tyler says they drove for blocks and blocks and saw all the cars at a standstill blocking streets trying to get turkeys.