Billionaire actor and producer Tyler Perry describes his childhood as a “living hell.” As a young adult, he struggled to make money and was eventually “homeless” and “starving

Tyler Perry grew up poor, and his childhood and adulthood were marred with constant suffering.

Nonetheless, he succeeded in his life and even became a billionaire.

Perry spends his money on people in need while living a down-to-earth life, but because he was once homeless, he does everything he can to live comfortably on his sprawling property.

Renowned filmmaker Tyler Perry had a tumultuous childhood filled with violence and abuse. The Hollywood A-lister was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana.

In addition to the abuse, young Perry lived in poverty. To get through those times, he would write down his daily thoughts as letters to himself, a technique he also learned from his good friend, Oprah Winfrey.

In an interview with the talk show host years ago, Perry opened up about his upbringing, surprising Winfrey who admitted not knowing the extent of suffering he went through as a child.

During his appearance on her now-defunct TV show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the award-winning television host asked the actor to describe his childhood, and he said:

“[It was] a living hell.”

Producer Tyler Perry pictured during the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 13, 2009 in Toronto, Canada | Source: Getty Images

Photos of Perry when he was young were flashed on the screen, and expressing what it felt like looking at them, he said, “That’s hard for me to look at. I feel like I died as a child.”

The playwriter endured violent beatings from his father, Emmitt Perry, Sr., and was constantly yelled at and called names. As a means to escape his reality, he used his imagination.

“I could go to this park [in my mind] that my mother and my aunt had taken me to. I’m there in this park running and playing, and it was such a good day. So, every time somebody was doing something to me that was horrible, that was awful, I could go to this park in my mind until it was over,” Perry explained.

Traumatized as a child, every day he feared he would do something wrong, which would result in his father getting riled up. That fear turned into something more—Perry did not feel the need to live anymore.

His situation didn’t change when he grew up, as he became homeless. In 2019, Perry posted a photo of two road boards indicating Tyler Perry Studios on East Point and Sylvan Rd, Cleveland Avenue. He was on his way to work when he saw them and became emotional, reflecting on his hardships as an adult.

Perry revealed he moved to Atlanta without a dime, lived off Sylvan Road, where he had no shelter, and starved. Despite this, he was driven by his faith, believing that things would eventually work out, but it took a while for things to fall into place.

The now-celebrated star dropped out of school and first worked at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. He later began writing scripts while selling cars and working as a bill collector.

The producer started stage production after saving up $12,000 to rent a community theater space to produce the play “Know I’ve Been Changed,” based on the story of child-abuse survivors.

Perry had to work hard enough to secure his rent for the following months and resorted to living in his car for three months. During that period, he worked on lights and sold snacks during intermission to make enough money for rent.

After working tirelessly to make his filmmaking dream come true, Perry hit it big with his character, Madea, raking in $100 million from theater ticket sales, another $20 million from merchandise, and another $30 million selling videos of the performances. This was even before he ventured into TV and film production.

At that point, people already knew who he was and could quickly identify him while walking in the streets, calling him Madea. The screenwriter subsequently made 11 Madea films within 14 years with Lionsgate before deciding to retire the franchise in 2019, having grossed over $670 million at the box office while keeping ownership of the films.

Now a billionaire, Perry’s ownership catalog includes 1,200 TV episodes, 22 feature films, at least two dozen stage plays, and a 330-acre studio lot in Atlanta.

Called The Tyler Perry Studios, the production company is now considered the most bountiful production house catering to black audiences.

Perry started the company in 2006, paying $30 million for the land in 2015, and spent $250 million building the studio there.

(L-R) Althea Simmons, Tyler Perry, Wendy Cyrus-Herndon and Kamal Smith attend the 2014 Radio One Women Empowerment Expo on July 12, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan | Source: Getty Images

The studio is located on a former confederate stronghold and has since expanded so much now that it is considerably more extensive than the Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank, California.

Perry became an acclaimed international superstar and billionaire despite all his struggles. According to Forbes, the movie mogul has earned more than $1.4 billion in pretax income since 2005.

The “I Can Do Bad All by Myself” star was the highest-paid entertainer in the world in 2022 at $175 million. He attained billionaire status in September 2020, joining his dear friend Winfrey and the likes of Steven Spielberg. As of February 2023, his net worth remains at $1 billion.

The prolific star, who executive produced “The Haves and the Have Nots,” credited his wealth to ownership, as he owns everything that comes with the studio, including the building itself. Additionally, as time progresses, he will become richer as it increases with the money he gets back from production. Perry explained:

“I own the lights. I own the sets. So that’s where the difference is. Because I own everything, my returns are higher.”

The Down-To-Earth Life of a Billionaire
As previously mentioned, Perry’s Hollywood success needed some patience. Aside from being homeless in 1991, he also witnessed his plays fail dismally, stating:

“From 1992 to ’93, to ’94, I was doing one show a year. I kept on doing the play. Every year it would fail, until 1998, the seventh year of me trying. I was about to give up and walk away.”

Before deciding to throw in the towel, his audience told him that the messages in his plays had changed their lives, and only then did he begin to see that his work had an effect on people. He said:

“My life shifted after that. My intention became, how do I serve other people? How do I lift other people?”

Despite being a billionaire, Perry is still a very down-to-earth man. He gives back to the community in more ways than one. As he was homeless once, he now works hard to eradicate homelessness by founding The Perry Foundation in 2006.

According to the website bio of the organization, it aims to “transform tragedy into triumph by seeding individual potential, supporting communities, and harvesting sustainable change.”

In addition, Perry supports several charities that lend a helping hand to the homeless – such as Feeding America and New Image Emergency Shelter, among others.

The entrepreneur also built Perry Place, a 20-home community in his hometown New Orleans for survivors of Hurricane Katrina. He often steps up when community members are displaced in the aftermath of natural disasters, pledging $1 million via his foundation to help them rebuild and offering financial relief.

In February 2023, Perry donated $2.75 million to curb the displacement of senior citizen owners in Atlanta. The generous donation will help the city’s low-income senior residents keep up with the constantly rising property taxes.

The stated circumstances have led to legacy residents losing their homes and those living on a fixed income being vulnerable and possibly displaced.

Aside from rescuing others, Perry still drives a replica of his old car, a Geo Metro, and refers to it as “Something old and something blue.” In a lengthy Instagram post dating back to 2019, the philanthropist shared a picture of the vehicle parked outside his studio in front of the building he named the Dream Building.

Perry explained he owned one in the ’90s while working on getting his play to succeed. At some point, the vehicle was repossessed because he was still struggling financially, which shattered him. He was chasing his dream and believed his plays could become a success.

He eventually purchased another Geo Metro, a replica of his old car, which now serves as a reminder of his long and challenging journey to success, parked right in front of his main office building. The “Why Did I Get Married” star also wants to inspire those who set foot in his studio that dreams can come true.

Perry posted another photo of the car while seated inside, revealing he still drives it around whenever possible. Reflecting on his past troubles means something to him. He penned in his post:

“If looking back at how far you’ve come doesn’t make you thankful, I don’t know what will. There’s no way to be ungrateful when you appreciate every blessing you have.”

The “Madea’s Big Happy Family” star also urged his 7.2 million followers on Instagram to keep soldiering because there is always a silver lining.

When Perry is not providing encouragement to others, he tries his best to cook. In a 2017 Facebook post, he posted a picture of a stove and told fans that he was attempting to cook himself dinner after two decades but needed help figuring out which appliance was the oven.

Inside Perry’s Dream Home Property
Today, the Emmy Award-winning director lives in a mega-mansion worth a staggering $100 million and situated on the outskirts of Atlanta.

The property, which spans 35,000 square feet, was in the process of being built in 2020 on 1,200 acres of land near his studio in Georgia.

The estate features an airplane hangar, a runway for its private jet, and an organic farm with animals. Perry reportedly started the building process in 2018 after spending several years working on its design and construction.

The Daily Mail obtained images of the construction of the property, which was set to have a large lap pool. The photos showed a long, landscaped driveway lined with trees leading to the grand entrance.

The entrances open onto a wide lane paved with hand-cut Santa Barbara Stone, leading through a grand archway of trees to the primary residence.

The backyard was expected to have a massive swimming pool and a hot tub, which, judging by the images, was already caved out at the time.

The mansion also has tiered rose gardens, sweeping lawns, blooming lavender, tall Italian cypress trees, century-old olive trees, a tea house, a children’s cottage, and a tennis court.

Perry’s home is secluded from prying eyes as it is surrounded by woods, giving room for privacy and tranquillity. It has eight bedrooms and 12 bathrooms.

Pictured: An aerial view of Tyler Perry's home in Atlanta, Georgia | Source: YouTube/DFWald

The multi-hyphenate also owns properties in Los Angeles, New York, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He previously hosted the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, including their son Archie at his $18 million LA mansion, following their move to the US in March 2020.

The Beverly Hills Tuscan-style villa consists of 12 bathrooms and eight bedrooms and sits on 22 acres on the top of the hill in the Beverly Ridge Estates gated community.

Perry had the 24,000-square-foot mansion custom-built from the ground up after purchasing the 22 acres of land it sits on for $4.3 million in 2004.

The royal couple has since bought an enormous nine-bedroom and 16-bathroom abode in Montecito, Santa Barbara, for $14.65 million. The Duke and Duchess live next to esteemed TV hosts Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.

Meanwhile, Perry, who made history by becoming the first African American to own a studio solely, is also known for flipping houses.

In 2018, he sold a property in Mulholland Estates in Beverly Hills to singer Pharrell Williams for $15.6 million. In addition to owning multiple properties and a studio, Perry also has two planes.