AARP The Magazine Exclusive: Tyler Perry’s Journey From Homelessness to Award-Winning Success
Producer, writer, actor, studio owner and philanthropist Tyler Perry shares the highs and lows of his decades-long career, and how he helped others along his way.
LOS ANGELES—AARP The Magazine sat down with bestselling author and award-winning actor and producer Tyler Perry (whose new project ‘A Jazzman’s Blues’ premieres on Netflix late 2022) to discuss his rise to billionaire status and becoming one of the entertainment industry’s most influential and inspiring leaders. Perry goes back to the start, exploring his abusive childhood and those who helped him find his passion as well as determination. He shares about the challenges that led to him living out of his car before he was finally able to catch a break, and the community he built around him from friends following the same dream. A well-known philanthropist, Perry discusses the creation of The Tyler Perry Foundation (for which he was awarded an honorary 2023 AARP Purpose Prize Award) that offers money to help people overcome the obstacles that he, too, once faced.
The following are excerpts from ATM’s August/ September 2022 cover story featuring Tyler Perry. The issue is available in homes starting in August and online now at www.aarp.org/magazine/.
On his childhood in Louisiana:
“I have some survivor’s guilt about that, because there are a lot of people I went to school with who did not make it, who ended up in prison, who ended up murdered, especially during the time of the crack cocaine infusion into America. I credit my getting out to my mother, my aunts, my grandmother—all these incredible women who prayed and taught me things and believed in me. Had I not had their examples and their straight-up backbone—their insistence that I make something of myself—I don’t know where I’d be.”
On hitting rock bottom:
“I spent all my money to put this play up, and it didn’t work. After that, I tried again—many, many times—to produce the play. I would get different jobs between those times, but I’d quit to work on the play, and I ended up homeless. For three months, I lived in a Geo Metro that I was hiding from the repo man.”
On Oprah Winfrey, and the teamwork that led to community success:
“I brought scripted material to the network with the crime-drama series The Haves and the Have Nots. It ran for eight seasons and is still the highest-rated show that was ever on the channel. For Oprah and me, it was important to show Black people that you can work together, that powers can come together and be successful.”
On his production company’s purpose:
“Thousands of people come through the gate every day to work here. And it’s a beautiful thing. A lot of them are former prisoners who wouldn’t have had this shot.”
On the importance of his studio location
“The land itself was once a Confederate Army base, which meant there were people here fighting to keep my ancestors enslaved. From the moment I walked onto the property, I was haunted by it. So, as we built each of the 12 soundstages, we buried Bibles underneath them, as a way of refocusing the spirit of the place. I wanted this to be a place where everyone was welcome.”
On casting Cicely Tyson:
“This woman had done so many amazing things, but she wasn’t well compensated for it. She made $6,000 for Sounder, you know? I wanted to make sure she knew that there were people who valued her. So, she did one day of work on my 2007 film Why Did I Get Married? I paid her a million dollars. I loved working with her. And it makes me feel great that I was in a position to give this incredible woman some security in her latter years.”
On creating The Perry Foundation:
“When you’ve been given a lot, you have to do a lot. And the need is great. I’ve tried to align myself with people who have the same sensibility when it comes to helping others.”
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Each day, you make important choices about your finances, health, privacy, and more. It’s National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), a time that non-profit organizations and government agencies can help you protect yourself and prevent fraud by taking advantage of your rights and making better, more informed choices.
Here are some things you can do to prevent Medicare fraud and become an informed Medicare consumer:
- Know your rights: As a person with Medicare, you have certain rights and protections to help protect you and make sure you get the health care services the law says you can get.
- Protect your identity: Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information without your consent to commit fraud or other crimes. Keep information like your Social Security Number, bank account numbers, and Medicare Number safe. Get more information on how to protect yourself from identity theft.
- Help fight Medicare fraud: Medicare fraud takes money from the Medicare program each year, which means higher health care costs for you. Learn how to report Medicare fraud.
- Join the Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP): The SMP educates and empowers people with Medicare to take an active role in detecting and preventing health care fraud and abuse.
- Make informed Medicare choices: Each year during the fall Open Enrollment Period (October 15–December 7), review your plan to make sure it will meet your needs for the next year. If you’re not satisfied with your current plan, you can switch during the Open Enrollment Period with the Medicare Plan Finder.
Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s NCPW page to learn more about the campaign, see which agencies and organizations are able to help you, and to find out if there are any activities happening in your area.
Each day, 20 people die while waiting for an organ transplant. With National Donor Day around the corner, keep in mind that just one person can save up to 8 lives through organ and tissue donation.
Over 80% of people on the transplant list need a kidney transplant, usually due to permanent kidney failure or End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). Medicare covers kidney transplants for both the person getting the transplant and the donor. If you’re getting the transplant, you pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount for doctor services. You pay nothing if you’re the living donor.
There are nearly 120,000 patients waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant and many more who need cornea, tissue, bone marrow, blood, and platelet donations. As a living organ donor, you can donate one kidney, one lung, or a portion of the liver, pancreas, or intestines.
Celebrate National Donor Day on February 14 by giving the gift of life. Sign up to become an organ donor today.