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Before he became a movie mogul, Tyler Perry was homeless. Reflecting back on his life’s struggles during a commencement speech at Tuskegee University last weekend, the producer described how serving others in need changed his life.

“I had just moved to Atlanta to try to launch this play, so I went to work. I managed to save $12,000 and I put the show up … I thought 1,200 people would show up that weekend but only 30 showed up. My car payment, rent, everything was tied up in it so I ended up homeless with no money and nothing to my name,” Perry said, according to

Perry, who received an honorary doctorate degree from the historic Alabama university, shared his story of perseverance with the graduates and their families to provide a glimpse into what his life was like back in 1991 when he became homeless as he worked to make his dream of launching a play come true.

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