It might be the best story ever told on a talk show.
Tiffany Haddish, while promoting her breakout role in the hit film Girls Trip, was telling Jimmy Kimmel about the time she took Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith on a Groupon swamp tour in New Orleans, something the couple only agreed to because they, Hollywood royalty that they are, had no idea what Groupon was.
Kimmel underscores the entire thing with uncontrollable giggles, as Haddish essentially monologues for seven full minutes—basically unheard of in the heavily edited and orchestrated world of talk shows. The story, specifically Haddish’s telling of it, is that good. They should create a new category at the Emmy Awards just to honor it.
Pinkett-Smith told her version of the same story on Jimmy Fallon’s show, but it made only a fraction of the splash Haddish’s telling did, with nearly a million views already on Kimmel’s YouTube page. She’s not pleased.
“Jada texted me the other day, saying, ‘Oh my god, Tiffany! All those views. I’m gonna need some money, bitch. You’re gonna need to run me some money,’” Haddish tells The Daily Beast, cracking herself up. “I said, ‘I wish I could get some of that money! We need to talk to Disney or something, because who owns this? We need to find out who’s getting the money from our conversation.’ She’s like, ‘I’m gonna get my people on it.’”
Even now, Pinkett-Smith still marvels in disbelief that Haddish convinced her to go on that tour—two of the most famous people in the world on a boat with dozens of people who purchased their tickets with an online coupon. Now, however, she’s a convert.
“She uses Groupon to buy makeup and stuff for her nieces and everything. Toys and little knick-knacks like that,” Haddish says. “She taught me how to dress expensively and invest in beautiful garments, and I taught her how to have a good time on a budget.”
Sitting with Haddish in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, it’s even easier to understand why the talk show anecdote went viral so quickly. She’s magnetic. Explosive. A solar flare of energy. She’s every superlative in real life she’s earned in headlines breathlessly praising her performance as brash, brazen life of the party Dina in Girls Trip.
As has quickly become legend during Haddish’s exhausting—and relentlessly entertaining—press push for Girls Trip, the 37-year-old actress was recommended to co-star with Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, and Pinkett-Smith as the fourth member of a group of college friends reuniting for a wild weekend in New Orleans by crew members who had worked with her on the comedy Keanu, but producers weren’t interested because they were looking for a “name” to round out the cast.
So Haddish told her manager, “Tell them I’ve had a name since 1979. I was born with a name. You tell them I need to come in.'” She nailed the audition and snatched the role.
When we meet in Los Angeles, Girls Trip is riding high on its record-setting opening weekend, the largest by a live-action comedy this year, earning a rare “A+” score from ticket buyers and proving, once again, that women—specifically, black women—can open a film, despite misguided industry notions to the contrary.
Haddish has a lot to talk about: her rocket launch into an entirely new stratosphere of fame and recognition; her new role as the female lead opposite Tracy Morgan in TBS’s upcoming The O.G., the former SNL star’s return to series television following a nearly fatal car crash; and, most noticeably, her joy.
“I’m the happiest I’ve been in my entire life,” she says. Spend just 30 seconds with Haddish and you know: she’s incapable of not speaking the truth.
Prior to Girls Trip, Haddish was probably best known for her supporting role on NBC’s recently (and aggravatingly) canceled sitcom The Carmichael Show, which had her working with series creator Jerrod Carmichael as well as comedy legends Loretta DeVine and David Alan Grier. She was number six on that call sheet. When The O.G. premieres in October, she’ll be number two.
“This is my first time being a leading lady on a sitcom,” she says. “It’s amazing. I’m learning so much, and I’m loving the perks.”
And what are those perks?
“I’m wearing expensive shoes,” she says, flipping her hair as she dramatically elongates her leg to show off her stylish pumps. “People want to dress me. And I can afford to pay for the shoes. That’s always a good thing.”
Plus, there’s the opportunity and, often, insanity of working with Tracy Morgan. “He gives such a great performance,” she says. “And I get to watch him come to work every day in a different kind of car! I don’t think Jay Leno even does that and he has a show about his cars. He comes to work in a Bentley, a Rolls Royce, Lamborghini, Maybach. You name it, he rolling in it.”
If you’ve read any articles about Haddish’s rise during her press blitz for Girls Trip, then you know she’s an open book about her life. And it hasn’t been an easy one.
As she recounted to Buzzfeed’s Jarett Wieselman, just a decade ago she was, as he says, “homeless as fuck,” sleeping in her Geo Metro on the streets of Los Angeles while she hustled for stage time at comedy clubs. When comedian Kevin Hart noticed what was going on, he gave her $300 and, maybe more valuably, some life and career coaching.
She and her four siblings were raised by a single mom in South Los Angeles. When Haddish was 9-years-old, her mother was in a serious car accident that Haddish links to her developing schizophrenia. From age 9 to 13, she served as de facto mother to her siblings, until they were all put in foster care for a period, eventually moving in with her grandmother.
Her life since Girls Trip has seemed a bit like being strapped to a catapulting rocket—and she’s giddily gripping on, taking advantage of every opportunity that’s come her way—but she’s still managed, even insisted, on taking time for reflection.
It’s overwhelming, still, for her to think about where she came from and how she had to fight to have a seat at the table with talent like Tracy Morgan, Queen Latifah, or Loretta Devine. But she knows that she’s earned that seat. And she’s learned to own it.
She remembers when she first started doing stand-up and acting, and the insecurity she felt about not being pretty enough, talented enough, or simply, not enough. Then, as she swears by this, she discovered a self-help YouTube video about confidence and manifesting the life you want to live.
Its advice was simple: looking in the mirror every morning, and tell yourself that you love yourself and you approve of yourself, because only then will the world start loving and approving of you, too.
“That is a concept, coming from where I come from,” she says, heaving out a huge, finally unburdened breath. “Nobody loved me. At least I never felt it, or they didn’t know how to love me properly. Nobody made me feel like I belonged. I was constantly moved around. They would come, get my clothes, put them in a trash bag, and move me to the next house. So I never really felt like I belonged somewhere.”
Then she started the affirmations from the YouTube video. The first time she did it, looking in the mirror and saying, “Tiffany Haddish, I love and approve of you,” she wept for five minutes.
“Because I didn’t love me,” she says. “I didn’t even know how to love me or approve of myself. I would say after three weeks, I didn’t cry no more. I started to see around me how my world would transition. I booked The Carmichael Show. Loretta said she loved me. David said she loved me. I’m working comedy shows with Dave Chapelle and doing stuff with Kevin Hart. They’re telling me, ‘Oh man you’re awesome. I love what you do.’ It’s like, whoa, I can appreciate it. I’m not like doubting it anymore.”
In New Orleans to film Girls Trip, a job she could sense was going to mean big things for her, she continued the affirmations. She found, almost unexpectedly, that she wasn’t nervous or anxious about rising to the occasion. She started every morning excited.
“I would look in the mirror: ‘Tiffany Haddish, I love and approve of you. You’re about to have so much fun today. You’re about to work with Queen Latifah! Jada Pinkett-Smith! Regina Hall! Ah! I’m so proud of you, girl!’” she says. “Basically being my own cheerleader. Being my mom. Being what my mom was supposed to be. The things your mom’s supposed to do, I didn’t have that. So I’m doing it for myself.”
That’s precisely why Haddish and her riotous performance as Dina in Girls Trip is resonating so much, especially with black women who have flooded Haddish’s social media and stopped her nearly everywhere she goes to tell her that this character, a whirling dervish of chaos and crass joie de vivre with a mama bear’s instinct for protecting her crew and a palpable sweetness to temper her erstwhile saltiness, has made them feel, for the first time, seen onscreen.
“The thing that I think people relate to most and resonate with most, especially women over 30, is I don’t have time to be afraid,” she says. “I don’t have time to not be myself. It’s so much work to try to be this other chick, to try to be what society tell you is right.”
It’s a rare and refreshing attitude to encounter in an excessively cautious and inauthentic industry, and it’s already ruffling feathers. A press push as extensive as the one for Girls Trip was bound to hit a bump, and it did last week in an interview with the Los Angeles Times when she made an off-color joke about how she’d still work with Bill Cosby: “I don’t care, I’ll drink the juice.”
Right before we speak, she was grilled about the comments during a Television Critics Association panel promoting The O.G. "I don't know if you've ever been interviewed before," she said. "You do 27 interviews and you're supposed to be humorous all that time. You're gonna say some bad jokes. You're gonna come up with a few not-good jokes. I was trying to make it seem like I'm not afraid to do anything. I'm not afraid of any kind of job, I'm not afraid to play any kind of role, as long as it doesn't compromise my morals."
When I ask her how she thinks the inquisition went, she shrugs it off: “I think everyone gets it.”
Our time is nearly up when, out of the corner of my eye on a table in the lobby, I spot a fruit bowl. Perched on top: a grapefruit. If you’ve seen Girls Trip, you’re well aware of the inevitably iconic scene in which Dina recreates an unconventional sex tip that was passed around in a viral video from sexpert Auntie Angel, involving a grapefruit and, um, fellatio.
Has Haddish had any awkward experiences eating grapefruit in public since the film has come out?
“I haven’t had it yet,” she says. “But I have tried to invest in a grapefruit farm, because I feel like it’s going to change the world.”
She starts laughing to herself: “You know what I’m waiting for? I’m wondering if somebody is going to see men, and be like, ‘Oh my god, Tiffany, can you sign my grapefruit?’ I wonder if I’ll come home one day and there are bags and baskets of grapefruits on my porch.”
After a cackle that just about fills the lobby of the hotel, she finishes the hypothetical so matter-of-factly that, somehow, makes it even more hilarious. “I love grapefruits,” she says. “It’s one of my favorite fruits.”