Tyler Perry, a successful actor, playwright, filmmaker and businessman, and will be hosting the Aretha Franklin tribute – Aretha! A Grammy Celebration for the Queen of Soul – this evening.
“I was raised on Aretha Franklin, my mother would always play….” Perry says during his tribute, according to Entertainment Weekly. “I’m having a little trouble saying this.” He calls on the evening’s ringleader, longtime Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich, for guidance: “I want you to be happy Ken. Tell me what I need to do.”
With Perry in the spotlight for the evening, fans might be curious about the actor’s personal life and family. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Perry Has Three Siblings and Grew Up With an Abusive Father, Who Wasn’t His Biological Dad
According to Notable Biographies, Perry was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 13, 1969. He was a middle child, with two older sisters and a younger brother, and his birth name was Emmitt Jr., after his father.
According to Margena A. Christian, Perry “he endured years of abuse as a child by his father ‘whose answer to everything was to beat it out of you.'” Perry says he would ‘go places in his mind’ following beatings,” according to Notable Biographies.
Perry attempted to kill himself as a teenager, slashing his wrists as a cry for attention. At the age of 16, he changed his name to Tyler in an attempt to distance himself from his abusive father, according to Body Height Weight.
2. His Mother Was a Preschool Teacher & a Factory Worker & Was Perry’s Inspiration For Madea
Willie Maxine Perry, Perry’s mother, raised her son to be a faithful Christian and took him to church every week. She often worked in a factory as an “assistant carpenter” and was a preschool teacher at the New Orleans Jewish Community Centre, according to BHW.
His mother died when she was just 64-years-old, and Perry remembers her as one of the most hardworking and supportive people he’d ever know. “I love my mother to death but one wrong thing she did was lying to me,” Perry said of his mother, according to BHW.
The late Willie Maxine Perry is the inspiration behind Madea, one of the most iconic characters in Hollywood, BHW reports.
3. Perry Found Out His Partner Was Pregnant in the Same Place He Found Out His Father Wasn’t His Biological Dad
Perry found out his wife was pregnant in the same arena that he was performing at when he found out his father wasn’t his biological dad. The Madea creator explained to PEOPLE “It was so strange. I was in the very arena that I had played and I got the test results back — the test saying my father wasn’t my father.”
Perry explained that he’d received a call from girlfriend Gelila Bekele, who wanted to video chat with Perry to share some huge news.
“I get a FaceTime call and she’s holding up the pregnancy stick,”he told PEOPLE’s Editor-in-Chief Jess Cagle in an episode of The Jess Cagle Interview in 2017. “I’m like, ‘I guess this is happening.’”
4. He Was With His Long-Time Girlfriend Gelila Bekele Since 2007 & The Couple Has One Child
Perry’s girlfriend Bekele gave birth to their son Aman on November 30, 2014. He told PEOPLE that his entire life now involves kids cartoons, toys and taking care of his family, when he’s not producing films and hosting tribute shows.
“The whole day is Paw Patrol,” the Hollywood powerhouse says of the animated Nickelodeon series. “Paw Patrol. He loves Paw Patrol. He wants to watch Paw Patrol. He’s never seen television, but he watches it on his iPad. We have to take it away, then we go out and do normal things, and then it ends with Paw Patrol.”
Perry and Bekele, who started dating after meeting at a Prince concert in 2007, told PEOPLE that their “lives revolve around him.”
5. His Wife is a Model, Activist & Filmmaker
Gelila Bekele is a model, activist, humanitarian and filmmaker who was born in Ethiopia. According to her website, she travels between the United States and Ethiopia often to help aid people in her home country through a charity that focuses on providing access to clean water and education.
“Bekele is currently represented by Women (360) Model Management (New York), and Premium Models(Paris),” according to her website. “She is featured in several beauty campaigns including those for Levi’s, Diesel, Tory Burch, Anna Sui, Michael Kors, H&M, Pinko, Nespresso, Pantene and L’Oreal, and has appeared in leading magazines and numerous other publications.”
Lately, Bekele has been expanding her resume as a documentary filmmaker. Her most recent release (2015) is Mai: Life is not Honey. Bekele is also the author of the book Guzo! (2016), which documents the daily lives of native Ethiopians.
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