Kam Williams | 7/3/2012, 10:20 a.m.
Tyler Perry’s inspirational journey from the hard streets of New Orleans to the heights of Hollywood’s A-list is the stuff of American legend.
Born into poverty and raised in a household scarred by abuse, Perry fought from a young age to find the strength, faith and perseverance that would later form the foundations of his much-acclaimed plays, films, books and shows.
It was a simple piece of advice from Oprah Winfrey that set Tyler’s career in motion. Encouraged to keep a diary of his daily thoughts and experiences, he began writing a series of soul-searching letters to himself. The letters, full of pain and in time, forgiveness, became a healing catharsis.
His writing inspired a musical, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” and in 1992 Tyler gathered his life’s savings and set off for Atlanta in hopes of staging it for sold-out crowds.
And so began an incredible run of 13 plays in as many years, including “Woman Thou Art Loosed!,” a celebrated collaboration with the prominent Dallas pastor T.D. Jakes. In early 2005, Tyler’s first feature film, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” debuted at #1 nationwide.
His ensuing films “Madea’s Family Reunion,” “Daddy’s Little Girls,” “Why Did I Get Married?,” “Meet The Browns,” “The Family That Preys,” “I Can Do Bad All by Myself” and “Why Did I Get Married Too?” have all met with massive critical and commercial success, delighting audiences across America and around the world.
In 2006 Perry had his first book published. “Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea’s Uninhibited Commentaries On Life And Love” shot to the top of the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list and remained there for eight weeks.
It went on to claim Quill Book Awards for both “Humor” and “Book of the Year” (an unheard-of feat for a first-time author), and spread Tyler Perry’s unique brand of inspirational entertainment to a devoted new audience.
Perry is now a brand that is quickly becoming an empire. In 2007, Perry expanded his reach to television with the TBS series “House of Payne,” the highest-rated first-run syndicated cable show of all time, which 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.”
Not one to rest on success, Perry and his staff of more than 300 are always hard at work. In the fall of 2008, he opened his 200,000-square-foot studio in Atlanta, situated on the former Delta Airlines campus of more than 30 acres.
The studio consists of five sound stages, a post production facility, a pond, a back lot, a 400-seat theater, a private screening room, and designated areas for entertaining and hosting events.
But listen to Perry and you’ll hear a man who hasn’t forgotten about the people that have helped him reach the top of a mountain he could once only dream of climbing.
He has donated generously to charities that focus on helping the homeless, such as Feeding America, Covenant House and Perry Place — a 20-home community that Tyler built for survivors of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.