American Icon: Tyler Perry

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Cliché as it may sound, the phrase ‘life is what you make it’ has never been truer as it is in the life of Tyler Perry. Watching him on the screens, it’s difficult to tell the mountains that Tyler has had to climb to get to where he is today. His life is in many ways a source of inspiration to young people who have had a rough start at life.

Tyler Perry is an award winning American actor, filmmaker, comedian and songwriter. His career hit a peak in the 1990s and early 2000s when he began writing and producing many stage plays. In 2011, Forbes named him the highest paid man in the entertainment industry. Today, Tyler has several new shows coming up and has an estimated net worth of $600 million.


Tyler Perry was born to Emmitt Perry Sr. and Willie Maxine Perry in New Orleans, Louisiana. His birth name was Emmitt Perry Jr. He has three siblings. His mother was very religious and took him with her to church every week. His frequent visits to church gave him a sense of contentment and refuge. His father, a carpenter was quite violent, especially towards him. Only later in life did he confirm through a DNA test the father he had known all his life was not his biological father.


From a young age, Tyler knew that his father despised him. In an interview with Oprah, Tyler says “I could not figure out why he hated me so. And every action was about his disdain and hatred for me”. His father’s answer to almost everything was ‘to beat the hell out of you’. As he grew older, Tyler went through intense rejection and attempted suicide to escape his father’s regular beatings. At the age of 16, he legally changed his first name from Emmitt to Tyler, a move to distance himself as much as possible from his father. At the age of 10, Tyler was molested by a friend’s mother. He also revealed that he had been molested in a different incident by three men.


While watching the Oprah Winfrey show, in his early 20’s, Tyler was exposed to the therapeutic effect of writing after he heard someone in the show describe it. This inspired him to take up a career in writing so that he could deal with his troubled past. He began writing letters to himself. These letters would later become the basis of I Know I’ve Been Changed, a religious musical that addressed dysfunctional families. Its reception was quite poor, contrary to what he had anticipated. Tyler however, persisted for another six years, rewriting the story over and again; to make it the masterpiece he had intended it to be.

He finally landed his breakthrough when he got an opportunity to restage and retool the play in Atlanta at the Fox Theatre and the House of Blues. Tyler particularly drew a large following from the African American community because most of his staged plays were relatable to them.


Tyler Perry is and remains famous for his character Madea, a hilarious elderly black woman with a strong personality. He has created several successful television shows such as The Haves and The Have-nots, Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, Why Did I Get Married, and For Better for Worse. The show House of Payne remains Tyler’s most successful television show having run for eight years from 2006 all the way to 2012.

In 2012, Perry struck a multi-year partnership with Oprah Winfrey. The partnership aimed to bring scripted television to the Oprah Winfrey Network. Tyler had previous success in this department and this partnership was therefore geared towards success.

Tyler is currently ranked as one of the most successful African Americans in the entertainment industry.

He describes himself as a Christian and many aspects of his faith are reflected on both his screen and stage work. He particularly upholds the black church culture and showcases gospel artists and music.

Tyler Perry’s story is a perfect reminder of the importance of turning your pain into power. Even though the odds were against him as he grew up, he has emerged the victor that he is today.

Despite the physical and emotional abuse he suffered under his father, Tyler has chosen forgiveness over vengeance. He currently houses and feeds his father to the dismay of many. In an interview by Oprah, Tyler said” As terrible as he was, he never once left us, and every time he went to work, he brought all the money home. So, in return I’m giving him what he gave me: food and shelter. However, we do not have a relationship, so he has the easy things.”

Tyler has risen above all his challenges to become the success that he is today. American Sunglasses is proud to call him an Icon.

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