Tyler Perry exists in a rarified atmosphere. He’s religious, he’s African-American and he made his riches playing a woman – the tough as nails and explosive Mabel “Madea” Simmons. The character was made famous in the 2005 film Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Just recently, though, Perry is making heads spin after appearing in David Fincher’s (Social Network, House of Cards) adaptation of the crime thriller Gone Girl as the sleaze-ball lawyer Tanner Bolt. Perry also made public – in a recent GQ interview – that he was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea and is currently undergoing CPAP treatment.
Let’s just get it out of the way – Tyler Perry is one of the highest paid human beings in the film and television world. In 2011, Forbes reported that Perry made over a hundred million dollars – in a single year! That’s not even rerun money from Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. That’s a whole lot of mulah for a guy who became famous for playing an overweight elderly woman who often finds herself in court, under house arrest or in jail. The character is in the same ilk as Eddie Murphy’s The Klumps, in which Murphy plays the role of all eight members of his family – in a fat suit nonetheless.
In real life, someone as overweight as Madea or Professor Klump, or even Mrs. Doutbfire for that matter, would surely be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea. However, if you looked at Tyler Perry’s frame, you wouldn’t immediately assume that he has obstructive sleep apnea. Indeed, obesity is a major risk factor for the sleep disorder. More weight means more bulk in the neck, which can exacerbate the condition. But this just goes to show you that sleep apnea doesn’t only affect the overweight or obese – it’s affects everyone. Even Tyler Perry.
But what if the Madea character is a personification of Perry’s sleep apnea – rude, violent, dangerous, short-tempered and destructive. In a 2011 article, Perry talks about some of Madea’s favorite foods in Bon Appétit magazine: fried chicken, ham, mac and cheese, and the like. Perry goes on to talk about the food he ate growing up in rural Louisiana: 7UP cakes (which is sort of like a bundt cake from hell using 7UP instead of milk for glaze), Mardi Gras king cake, and doughnuts. Even now, Perry’s favorite dishes include burgers and cookies. When you look his diet, it’s almost a no brainer that he would soon be diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.
In the GQ article, Perry talks about the random casting in David Fincher’s new movie, which stars Ben Affleck. Perry was certainly taken aback when Fincher called him personally to play the sordid and possibly corrupt lawyer. In the interview, Perry is asked how many hours of sleep he gets per night – considering all the projects he is working on. Perry responds with mentioning his recent diagnosis of sleep apnea and the fact that he is currently “getting the best sleep of [his] entire life” thanks to dedicated CPAP treatment. It makes sense – many people are getting the best sleep of their lives because of CPAP therapy. In Perry’s case, good health also means that we may get to enjoy many more new “Perry-esque” movies in the future.