Tyler Perry is the beloved comedian known for sporting a fat suit and playing Madea, the 68-year-old gun-toting granny -- a character he created. He bases Madea, whose name comes from "Ma" and "Dear" on his mother and aunt, the two women who most influenced him.
Perry, 36, who once lived out of his Geo Metro, is enjoying great success with his latest film, "Madea's Family Reunion." He says that spending so much time with women like his mother and aunt allowed him to know their minds and write from Madea's fictional perspective in his new book.
Read an excerpt below.
Everybody's got skeletons in the closet. Every once in a while, you've got to open up the closet and let the skeletons breathe. Half the time, the very thing you think that's going to destroy you or ruin you is the very thing that nobody cares about. My advice to anybody with skeletons is dust them off every now and then -- as long as your closet ain't full of them. It's not good to have more than two or three.
What I have learned in this life is that you can never be ashamed of where you come from. So as you read some of this stuff, especially when I'm talking about my family and folks, keep in mind that I'm going to keep it real. Some people think that keeping it real will get you in trouble, but I'm going to tell it like it is.
The first memory from my childhood is so beautiful. It was lovely. I was looking out of the window. It was autumn. The leaves were changing, everything was golden brown, and the wind was blowing. The sky was blue with white clouds passing slowly. At that moment, I was sitting there thinking, Wow, I am so very, very blessed to be on this earth. Just as I was getting ready to raise my hands and say, "Thank you, Jesus," my momma slapped the hell out of me on the back of my head and said, "You ain't finished washing them dishes yet! Stop staring out that window and finish the dishes!" So that's my earliest remembrance. I must have been about five.
We started cleaning the house at three. In that day, we didn't have no remote controls and vacuum cleaners. If you wanted all of that stuff, you had children. That's what they were for. So that was my job: I was the automatic dishwasher. My brother was the lawn mower. I had another sister who was the remote control -- every time they wanted to change the channel on the TV. Every time the family wanted a new technology, it was called children. I grew up in a little house on a hill in the country in a little town named Greensburg, Louisiana. Maybe it was more like a shack. We had to stuff newspapers into the walls because we didn't have insulation back then. But it was nice. We had an outhouse. We didn't have much, but we had love.
And I had many, many, many uncles. Every time my daddy went to work, one of my uncles would come over. So there were plenty of family members always around. Most of the uncles' names were Johnson for some reason: Uncle Little Johnson, Uncle Big Johnson, Uncle Wide Johnson, Uncle Crooked Johnson -- everybody's name was always Johnson. I could never figure that out.
Britney Spears grew up in the same area. She, of course, came many years later. It was a little different today than when I grew up there. Now they have trailers. As I said, I grew up in a shack, she grew up in a trailer, but we are all in the same park, not too far from each other. I knew her great-grandmother. What was her name? Litany Spears? That's right, Litany. Yeah, I didn't like her, and she didn't like me.
It was a small house. We had a living room, a kitchen, the outhouse, and one bedroom. All of us there in the one room. But you know, it was all good. There was a foot tub that we would all take baths in. We'd have to get the water from the well and warm it up. You had to stay clean when you live in such close quarters. If you smelled bad, my mother would be the first one to knock you on the side of head and tell you to take a bath. There were two beds: one for my momma and daddy, and the other for all us children -- that was another good reason to smell good, sleeping in the same bed.
My daddy was the nicest man you'd never want to meet -- but not too bright, though. Looking back, I realize just how dumb he was when I remember him coming home once and finding one of the uncles there. My momma introduced him as Uncle Lowdown. My father shook his hand and invited him to stay for dinner. You see, my daddy had an accident. He worked at the sawmill and one of the logs fell down and hit him upside his head. That side of his brain was never too together after that, but he was a good provider.
Of course, growing up like that, all together with seven or eight people, you have to stand up for yourself. I had to fight all the time. That might have something to do with who I am now.