Anyone that's tuned into MTV in the last several weeks knows that Tiffany Haddish is fully primed to host the network's Movie & TV Awards this Monday. "The most important thing is preparation," she notes in one promo as she jokingly goes over flash cards. ("It: scary a-- clown, Riverdale: Okay, so many redheads, Stranger Things: nerd kids.")
In another, the star (and double nominee!) envisions all the worst case scenarios that could befall her as emcee of the annual popcorn trophy fest—Fall on your face! F--k up the names!—seemingly using the power of the secret to ensure the event goes off without a hitch. Explains Haddish, "I like to say what I don't want, so that I can get what I do what."
While the casual fan may not have heard the name Tiffany Haddish before last July, she's been hustling since the age of 15. "I didn't just come out of nowhere," she told Ellen DeGeneres of her years spent on the comedy club circuit and working as an extra. "I've been in this business a minute, walking around in the back smiling." Her off-camera antics caught the attention of none other than Oprah Winfrey on the set of her 2005 drama Their Eyes Were Watching God ("She walked by and I was making all the other extras laugh," Haddish recalled), but it'd be another 12 years until mere mortals paid notice. Outshining her more bold-named costars in last summer's surprise smash Girls Trip earned Haddish raves (and not a little Oscar buzz), but it was her infectious personality and ability to fully, authentically be herself on the ensuing press tour that made her the breakout star of 2017.
First, though, she'll take center stage at the Barker Hanger in Santa Monica, Calif to help dole out some trophies. She has bits planned with her Girls Trip costars Queen Latifah, Regina Hall and Jada Pinkett Smith and other celeb pals (she's hung with everyone from Beyoncé to Taylor Swift to Barbra Streisand to Kevin Hart). "It's gonna be off the chain, and you know why?" she has said. "I'm hosting! And you know what that means—it's gonna be hilarious." Yeah, she ready.
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Her path didn't get much easier. The story of her childhood is, at times, unfathomably tragic, but she manages to deliver the details in her memoir with a dash of humor. Five years after her Eritrea-born father abandoned the family when she was 3-years-old, her mother was in a devastating car accident (Haddish speculates it could have been caused by her step-father in an attempt to pocket insurance money). The crash left her brain severely injured and her personality irreparably altered. To hear Haddish tell it, her mom returned meaner, more volatile and abusive. "I swore she had a demon in her," she told GQ. "It's so scary."
Her life at a high school in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley was just as fraught. She estimates she remained at a "first- or second-grade reading level" well into her teens and was faking her way through advanced placement classes until a discerning social worker enrolled the 15-year-old into the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp. There, comic legend Richard Pryor delivered the advice that has become her personal motto: You need to have fun. "I try to take that philosophy and apply it to everything I do in my life," she wrote in her book. "That's why I think my life turned out as good as it has. Because, all the time, I'm just trying to have fun."
Making ends meet meant accepting gigs as a movie set extra, a sex phone operator and what she calls an "energy producer" at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs—plus a little help from a friend. When she met Hart at the Laugh Factory, he offered her $300 to get a hotel room. But the next day, she recounted to Vanity Fair, "I got a phone call and was offered an apartment." The "most raggediest" place she had scene, there were roaches everywhere, cigarette stains on the carpet and yellowed walls from excessive smoking. "It was all bad," she told the mag. "The guy was like, 'It's $550 a month,' and I was like, 'It's perfect! I'll take it!'"
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So, yeah, sorry Hollywood purists, she's going to wear that same bejeweled Alexander McQueen halter as many times as she'd like. "When I saw the receipt, I cried," she told W magazine of the gown originally selected for the Girls Trip premiere. "The dress was $4,122! So I'm wearing it multiple f--king times. I don't care what nobody say—that's a down payment on a car, that's a medical bill." Expect an appearance this Monday. After donning it at the Oscars (for the third time), she told E! News, "I had to go to Michaels and put more stones back in," after a few fell off at the dry cleaner.
And while she's upgraded her fake Michael Kors bags to Fendis and Guccis, she sticks to her rule that, "Whatever the bag costs, I should be able to keep that amount of cash in the bag." So, she insisted to W, "If things start to go wrong, I'm going right back to my knockoffs."
Her revelation led to a fevered, Internet-wide guessing game in which actress Sanaa Lathan was named as the most likely culprit, but Haddish insists she was just trying to tell a story about "how Beyoncé kept me from goin' to jail that night. I coulda just shut my whole career down." (Haddish offered to "beat somebody a--" on the 22-time Grammy winner's behalf, but she waved her off.)
Not only is Haddish willing to dish on her growing pool of celebrity friends, her delivery is so captivating that her stories become instant Internet fodder. Who hasn't heard about the time she met Brad Pitt in an elevator and formed a hook-up pact with the father of six? Her latest anecdote involves her crossing paths with Leonardo DiCaprio at a party, she told The Hollywood Reporter, and asking "if he'd let me hit that." Her request was specific: "I told him, 'My only stipulation: I wanna do it with you as your character in What's Eating Gilbert Grape.'"
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"I want to go to every single country. I want to buy two streets that intersect and call them Tiffany and Haddish, and I want to open a youth center, a job-training center, a mental-health department, and a whole art center there," she detailed to Marie Claire. "Then when people say, 'Oh my God, how did you learn to play the trumpet?' 'Oh, I learned it on Tiffany and Haddish.' I want to go on a date with Michael B. Jordan. I want a fried-chicken-and-girls' night with Michelle Obama. There's a lot of things I want to do, girl."
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But, for now, Haddish is pretty satisfied with where she's at. "I would tell a young Tiffany to figure out what it is you love, do that every single day and you will always make money," she told E! News in January. "Don't doubt yourself...Never ever doubt it."