Tiffany Haddish: The Last Black Unicorn

As a supporter of black television shows and movies, I believe watching some of the latest films starring or created by black people a necessity to maintain my black card. Some of the recent films that hit theaters within the past year included the thriller Get Out produced by Jordan Peele; the play turned movie about father son relationships, Fences starring Viola Davis and Denzel Washington; Hidden Figures, the story of three influential black women in NASA; the story of black men and uncovering their sexuality, Moonlight; and the summer adventure movie Girls Trip starring Tiffany Haddish, Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, and Jada Pinkett.

Despite the recent snub by the Golden Globes 2017, as mentioned by none other than Jada Pinkett herself, Girls Trip has proven what the power of  women supporting films created by and about women, black people supporting films created by and supporting black people, and what can be done with a small budget, a great story and amazing acting. After watching the movie with tears in my eyes from laughter, I am not surprised that the $20 million budget movie became a $138 million success. The movie was a hilarious depiction of what would happen if the Girlfriends series had a baby with the movie Hangover. It’s a story of rebuilding broken friendships, supporting friends through financial and relational problems, and being grateful for the ones who have always had your back, all while having fun and embracing black culture in the city of New Orleans. Although all of the ladies starred in the movie were amazing, Tiffany Haddish, with her larger than life personality, insanely hilarious commentary and reckless acts was the source of much of the laughs in the movie. From grinding on P. Diddy to teaching us what can be done with a grape fruit and a fine man, the 38 year old comedian and actress became the breakout star of the movie.

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Tiffany Haddish was, as a family member once told me, “an instant success that only took ten years”. However, since Girls Trip, her fame has skyrocketed with successes including her HBO Special, becoming the first black female comedian to host SNL and most recently her book, The Last Black Unicorn. Despite her comedic SNL skit as a future predicting black unicorn with Leslie Jones, her book takes her readers through a range of emotions from happiness to fear to anger to redemption and more. Trevor Noah in his interview of Tiffany Haddish on December 7, 2017, emphasized how great this book was and highlighted just how insane Haddish’s life has been. This book does not disappoint.

It is common knowledge from her interviews that Tiffany Haddish was once a child in the California foster care system which further stole the hearts of many with her Cinderella story. However, her book extends far beyond demonizing the system and those involved with it with the usual stereotypes of neglectful evil parents to lost cause children to indifferent social workers to careless foster parents collecting checks. Haddish put a face on a system that we prefer to ignore. Her heart wrenching relationship with her mother shows the diversity in paths to how children end up in foster care. I believe we in the United States mentally file foster care as the unfortunate outcome of a few bad apples that was self inflicted. However, Trends in the Foster Care System recorded by Children’s Bureau statistics tell a different story. As of 2016, there were approximately 687,000 children served, 118,000 waiting for adoption and 57,200 adopted. These numbers don’t even scratch the surface of each child’s story before, during and after their lives in foster care.

Haddish’s relationships with the men in her life are so emotional, so dysfunctional and for many who have experienced abuse on any level from verbal to physical, so familiar. Unlike other domestic violence survivor stories that write those moments in the Tyler Perry style where they graciously found courage after one last traumatic moment to escape that situation (which is a type of story that many need), Haddish’s story was as if it had happened yesterday. In her book, Haddish became the best friend that made all the wrong, impulsive decisions. If you don’t have that friend, either your life is incredibly boring or you might be that friend. Either way, Haddish’s willingness to open her life to readers in a way that feels real and recent is what many victims of abuse may need. Leaving an abusive relationship is not always a clean cut or easy decision for those invested in that relationship, and Haddish’s story is just one example of the difficulties of leaving.

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Her life as a comedian was equally an emotional roller coaster as her personal life. She may have started her comedic career  as a teenager, but by no means was her success or involvement was a steady, consistent climb to the top. Her story as a woman trying to make it in a man’s world (or so we’ve been falsely taught) is one that resonates with all women with goals of making it big in any industry.

Her book was genuine and more like a long conversation with Tiffany Haddish herself rather than an autobiography. The book itself was short and the words were so conversational, I read it in a weekend. I now understand Trevor Noah’s excitement in pitching this book.

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Despite My Label, I Cry Too

My indoor season as an unattached athlete ended, and it was a whirlwind of ups and downs. Today I particularly want to look at the downs. I don’t want to do this to wallow in self pity but to acknowledge what needs to change or be addressed for the future. During my time as a graduate student, I have developed an increased interest in college students and mental health.

My indoor season started great in January but sometime around the end of January middle of February things went downhill. Anxiety was at a high. So high I couldn’t make it through workout weeks. So high I cried at the starting line at practice. So high I was angry at everyone for everything. There was a night where for hours I cried. I don’t mean teared up, I mean ugly Kim Kardashian cried. Mucus out the nose holding myself down on my knees cried. Normally I am confident but that time I was jealous and insecure. I could see everyone else succeed but could not see my own progress. I was stuck and angry. And what made it all worse was I felt no one cared.

Now that I am out of what I called that ‘dark time,’ I did a little bit of research. According to National Institute of Mental Health depression is common for college students. Of course every college student goes through tough times. We all have that one class that makes you contemplate your whole existence. But, when those feelings of frustration, sadness, indifference and other emotions last almost daily and for 2 weeks or more, NIMH indicates these are signs of depression.

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Depression explained by NIMH can come in different levels but regardless of the level, having depression doesn’t make you a problem. I had to tell myself this after speaking with a friend who clearly had no idea what I was going through. My friend talked to me about a woman they knew before me and described her a crazy. I asked “what made her crazy?” My friend proceeds to explain how she was strange and emotionally unstable. Little did my friend know, I was going through similar problems.

Maybe I didn’t look “crazy.” Maybe I didn’t wear enough black and recite enough Edgar Allan Poe to show my sadness. Maybe people couldn’t see how hurt I was because I was a “strong independent black woman” in the making and those type of women don’t cry. No. We raise our fists above our Angela Davis afros reciting Maya Angelo poetry in Beyoncé formation. But we don’t cry. Maybe my armor of muscles from years of track is assumed to block sadness. In the words of arnold “I pick thing up and put them down.” But a woman as strong as me does not cry. Athletes only cry when they lose a championship. Maybe I was too educated to cry. I should be grateful I am in an institution at all, and I am, but college is not easy. College kids don’t cry. We get drunk on Thursdays and sleep in class to deal with our problems. But we don’t cry. All of these labels designed to help people know me better have led to me being more misunderstood because people couldnt look past the label.

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There are various sites that are listed to recognize signs for depression for yourself or someone you know. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but being the child of a psychiatrist and having talked to someone close to me, recognizing when something is wrong and letting someone know is important.

I contemplated whether I should post this. There is someone who is maybe rolling their eyes or scoffing at this post. There is probably someone else who just deleted my name from their contacts because they don’t want to associate with “the crazy girl.” But I wrote this because maybe there is someone who is reading this and may not feel as alone. A 2 line facebook post doesn’t tell a story but someone can. This post is meant for the person who is trying to “walk it off” or “suck it up.” The person trying to justify their emotions as “hanger” or “just another college temper tantrum” because those reasons are cute. Those reasons don’t raise questions. Those reasons make you “normal.”

I will claim a lot of labels. Depressed is not one of them.