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Tyler Perry’s Traumatic Childhood

“[My father] couldn’t get the bolts off because they were rusted. He looked up at me, and there was a smirk on my face. All I remember is him tackling me, and I remember holding onto a chain-link fence so tight, my hands are bloody and he’s hitting me … I feel like I died as a child.”

~ Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry


Tyler Perry is a media mogul sitting at the top of the A-list. He’s produced more than 20 plays, movies and TV shows and has rubbed elbows with entertainment elite. In 2010, Tyler was also named the second highest-earning man in Hollywood by Forbes magazine.

But Tyler Perry’s life wasn’t always so fortunate. For years, he says he suffered brutal physical abuse at the hands of his father and severe sexual abuse at the hands of several adults. Inside or outside the home, Tyler says he never felt safe.

Now, for the first time, Tyler Perry reveals in-depth details of his traumatic childhood and shares his personal story—a story of strength, power and, ultimately, triumph.

Though they’re close friends, Oprah says she never realized how brutal Tyler Perry’s childhood really was. When she asks Tyler to describe the early years, his answer says it all. “[It was] a living hell,” Tyler says.

As a picture of a young Tyler flashes across the screen, tears flood his eyes. “That’s hard for me to look at,” he says. “I feel like I died as a child.”

To endure the violent beatings, shouting and name-calling, Tyler says he used his imagination to escape.

Tyler Perry at age 6

Tyler Perry at age 6.

“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,” he says. “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.”

One particular beating Tyler says he’ll never forget is the time his father brutally whipped him with a vacuum cord.

“To this day, I don’t know why he did it. But I remember him cornering me in a room and hitting me with this vacuum cleaner cord. He would just not stop. There are all these welts on [me], the flesh that’s coming from my bone, and I had to wait for him to go to sleep,” Tyler says. “When he fell asleep, I ran to my aunt’s house, and she was mortified when she saw it.

Tyler’s aunt Jerry she says he didn’t say a word when got to her house, but he was crying. “I lifted his shirt, and there were five huge welts—long and they had lines in them, and they almost broke his skin,” she says. “I got very upset.

“And what did you do, Aunt Jerry?” Oprah asks.

“I picked up a gun,” she says. “I’m not proud of the fact, but I did and I went around the corner to their house. I met [Tyler’s father] on the sidewalk, and I pointed the gun at him.”

That same day, Jerry says she told Tyler’s mother, Maxine, that she should never leave Tyler alone with his father again. “I knew that he couldn’t stay there with him,” Jerry says. “And she took him everywhere with her after that.”

After another vicious beating from his father, Tyler says he blacked out for three days. “He played these mind games with me,” Tyler says. “This one in particular, he wanted me to change a tire.” As Tyler worked to loosen the bolts, he says his father screamed and cursed at him. Even Tyler’s mother and uncle tried to help him…but they couldn’t prevent the inevitable.

“[My father] couldn’t get the bolts off [either] because they were rusted,” Tyler says. “He looked up at me, and there was a smirk on my face. All I remember is him tackling me, and I remember holding onto a chain-link fence so tight, my hands are bloody and he’s hitting me.”

Watch Tyler describe the horrific incident.

Every day, Tyler Perry says he lived in fear that something would set his father off. It got so bad, young Tyler took drastic measures. One day, he says he slit his wrists and tried to commit suicide.

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