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Tiffany Haddish on Men, Money, and Taking on Hollywood

Tiffany Haddish on Men, Money, and Taking on Hollywood

Breakfast with Tiffany Haddish is at a Southern-inspired spot called My Two Cents near her home in Los Angeles. Haddish is friends with the owner, and we’re seated at her regular corner table, an hour before the restaurant opens to the public.

Today Haddish is wearing a black T-shirt with an illustration of a brown unicorn that a fan made for her. She says that she tries to go through her DMs and respond to fans at least once a day, and she loves interacting with them in person—most of the time. “I don’t mind anybody talking to me, but if I’m eating, that makes me mad because I have a serious relationship with food,” Haddish tells me between bites of her usual—shrimp and grits, with a side of collard greens. “When people come over to me when I’m eating, I’m always surprised they’re not like, ‘Tiffany Haddish is an evil bitch.’”

Breakfast at Tiffany’s—the 1961 film, based on the Truman Capote novella—centers on Audrey Hepburn’s glam, eccentric Holly Golightly, who reinvents herself in an attempt to outrun her past. For her BAZAAR photo shoot, Haddish delighted in channeling Hepburn, vamping for the team in a variety of black frocks and long gloves and posing with a cat meant to recall Golightly’s, which the character never gives a name.

Haddish’s own life has transformed profoundly since her breakout role in the 2017 comedy Girls Trip. Now she headlines high-profile comedy specials—the latest, Black Mitzvah, released on Netflix in December—and major studio releases, including next month’s hidden-camera comedy Bad Trip, with Eric André. Haddish’s character breaks out of prison as the movie begins, but many of her scenes were shot opposite civilians who didn’t know they were being filmed. “Most people didn’t recognize me at first,” she says. “Then I’d get to talking and doing my thing. They were like, ‘Hey, you know who you remind me of? Girl, you remind me of Tiffany Haddish.’”

Haddish grew up nearby in South Central. Her childhood was extremely difficult: Her father left the family when she was three, and after her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, she and her four younger siblings spent several years in foster care. Haddish struggled to make it as a comedian throughout most of her 20s, finding work as a bar mitzvah dancer and a customer service rep for Alaska Airlines, among other jobs, and even living out of her car for a period of time.

When she was a teenager, Haddish was told that her Eritrean-born father was Jewish, and she recently confirmed that she has Jewish roots with a 23andMe test. That led her to decide to get bat mitzvahed on her 40th birthday in December. And it was no ordinary bat mitzvah: Sarah Silverman’s rabbi sister, Susan Silverman, officiated the ceremony; Billy Crystal, Jimmy Kimmel, and Chelsea Handler were among the guests; and Barbra Streisand gave her a gold Star of David necklace, which she is wearing when we meet.

Haddish says she was well prepared for the ceremony rituals. “I learned Hebrew and everything,” she says. “I was doing those bar mitzvahs for like 11 years, so I was always learning things.”

Haddish has been refreshingly candid about the details of her interactions with other celebrities. At one point she shows me her Marco Polo thread with Silverman, consisting of about a hundred videos sent back and forth between them. (“She just gave me this toothbrush that’s a toothbrush and a Waterpik all at the same time. Changed my life.”) Even the PopSocket on Haddish’s phone is of glittery provenance. “Taylor Swift was the first one that got me into these things. She was like, ‘Here, get some memorabilia from my concert.’ I was like, ‘What is this?’ And she was like, ‘You put it on your cell phone.’ ”

Most people didn’t recognize me at first. They were like, ‘Girl, you remind me of Tiffany Haddish.’

After Haddish met Brad Pitt in an elevator at the Oscars in 2018, she later recounted that he’d told her if they were both single in a year’s time, they were going to get together. Haddish says she saw Pitt almost exactly one year after their elevator encounter at a party. “You could tell he was scared of me. He was like, ‘Oh, shit, Tiffany Haddish is here,’ and doing his eyes shifty,” she says, laughing. “I was like, ‘Ain’t nobody fucking with you. You’ve got too many kids.’

“Men got to work for it, you know?” Haddish adds. “They like the hunt. Can’t make it too easy.”

I ask Haddish if there’s anyone she’s met who she considers a role model. She immediately says Meryl Streep. “She smells like success,” Haddish gushes. “She introduced me to Steven Spielberg. I was bowing and stuff: ‘Hello, Mr. Spielberg.’ He was like, ‘You are so delightful. I just love it. You are so funny. You really bring great energy to a room.’ I was like, ‘Oh, thank you … I can do that on set too.’ ”

Haddish says there’s another aspect of her newfound status that she’s had to confront: learning to stand up for herself in professional settings, including on a recent project where she was unhappy with certain parts of the script. Her character was meant to yell or otherwise be heated in numerous scenes. “I was like, ‘I’m not about to be the angry black woman,’ ” she says. “I just walked away.”

She credits her Like a Boss costar Salma Hayek Pinault with helping her navigate the situation. “She was telling me how to go about it. It was the best learning experience,” Haddish says. Fortunately the filmmakers ended up making changes to address her concerns. “I could’ve been fired that day,” she says. “It very well could’ve been like, ‘Fire Tiffany. We’ll get somebody else.’ That was a chance that I was willing to take. You have to say what you believe. When you have that bad feeling, honor that because that’s the truth. Your emotions are your compass through life.”

In addition to Bad Trip, Haddish also has a starring role in the new Netflix series Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker alongside Octavia Spencer, who portrays the black hair-care pioneer; she just wrapped another film, Here Today, with Crystal; and she’s been crisscrossing the country performing stand-up. “Even if both my legs fall off and I can’t stand no more, I will roll my ass up to the stage,” she says.

One by-product of the success that Haddish now enjoys? Requests from acquaintances and family members for financial support. “Everybody looks at you like you’re supposed to take care of them,” she says. “People that aren’t even your blood; they’re just a friend of the family, associates, old friends from junior high school or high school. Then they say, ‘You changed.’ How have I changed? You didn’t ask me for a dime when I was poor. When I was sleeping in my car, where were you? When I was going through my divorce and didn’t have nowhere to go, where were you?

“It’s the hardest part,” Haddish continues. “I almost want to hire somebody in the press to be like, ‘Tiffany Haddish: broke as hell. No money. She’s been working for free the whole time.’ Let that be on the front page of Google for a long time: ‘We thought she was worth four million ….’ ”