Living out of trash bags or driving Los Angeles residents for Uber were only pit stops to actress Tiffany Haddish and TikTok star Tabitha Brown’s Hollywood dreams.
Accent Speakers Bureau, a UF Student Government agency funded by student fees, hosted Haddish and Brown on Wednesday in two free events for UF students and faculty over Zoom. During the shows, the women discussed topics ranging from their careers in media to the importance of self-care.
This was the second day of Accent events in the Spring. On Feb. 3, Accent hosted Cody Ko, Noel Miller and David Dobrik in a $120,000 show. It is unclear how much money Haddish and Brown were paid, and The Alligator has submitted public records requests for their contracts.
Wednesday evening, students enjoyed a live screening of Tiffany Haddish’s movie “Like a Boss,” followed by a 45-minute Zoom conversation with Haddish. The event was moderated by UF Journalism professor Rachel Grant, Ph.D., who laughed with students throughout the conversation.
Grant asked Haddish about her experiences as an actress and as a Black woman in today’s society.
Black women have endured a rough path toward the little successes they have achieved along the way, Haddish said. However, she is proud to see how resilient they are.
“My favorite thing about being a Black woman is that there is so much history attached to us,” she said. “There is so much pain, but there is also so much joy.”
Haddish said she was talking to two Black girls, who shared dreams of one day being nominated to become president of the United States, when she heard the news that she had won a Grammy for her stand-up comedy show “Black Mitzvah.” Haddish was the second Black woman to ever win the Comedy Album Grammy award.
“What fuel I hope this gives them to become the president of the United States,” she said. “I hope I get to read a poem at their inauguration.”
Before starring in Hollywood and bringing smiles to millions of people with her work, Haddish was a child living in foster care.
“When I got moved around from house to house, they used to make me put my clothes in trash bags or grocery bags, and it made me feel like garbage,” she said. “I remember when I got my first suitcase it made me feel like a person.”
Haddish now owns a non-profit organization called She Ready that donates suitcases to foster youth.
When students asked Haddish for her insight into being a successful woman, she told them the formula to success is faith, goals, and work — to believe in what you want, set straight goals, and then do the work. But the main key to success is to love what you want, she said.
“Figure out what it is that makes your heart tingle,” she said.
Before Haddish’s event, the Gator Recharge day started with an interview with Tabitha Brown. Brown’s interview began with a 45-minute moderated conversation with UF journalism broadcasting professor Harrison Hove, who asked about her journey as a vegan and her rising internet presence.
She pursued acting in her home state of North Carolina before taking off to California, but part of that lifestyle included working on the side to maintain the silver screen goals.
Brown said she planned to pick up a casting director in her car and catch them with her charm while driving for Uber in LA. The overnight success story never came to her back seat, so she took matters into her own hands and started making videos on social media. Brown’s videos, which meshed vegan recipes and affectionate advice, led to her stardom.
Despite the side jobs and stress she endured to chase her passions, Brown never gave up. Her secret to her virality, she said, was her genuineness.
“Everybody loves to laugh, everybody loves to feel something. And sometimes people need to cry. So only truth can do those things,” she said.
Calling in on UF’s second recharge day, she reflected on the importance of self-care.
“We are just like a phone,” Brown said. “Honey, if you don't charge this thing up every day, it ain’t gonna work. It's not going to give you the best of it.”
The last 15 minutes of the event included a Q&A, where students asked Brown about her favorite vegan food — which was anything that can go in a burrito — to how she has to reform the notion of veganism as just a “white thing.” She said she was often the only person of color at vegan events before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“But it’s also making my presence known that I’m supposed to be here,” Brown said. “Food is for everybody.”
David Hanson, a 37-year-old UF Ph.D. graduate who works with the Institute of Food and Agricultural Services extension family nutrition program as an evaluation coordinator, attended the event. As a Black vegan himself, he said he enjoyed Brown’s down-to-earth personality and her ability to navigate through typically white spaces such as veganism.
“She presented her story in a very accessible and authentic way that I think was beneficial to anybody who participated in her talk,” he said.
This article has been updated to reflect that the Gator Recharge day started with an interview with Tabitha Brown. The Alligator initially reported otherwise.
Contact Carolina Ilvento and Manny Rea at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Follow them on Twitter @CarolinaIlvento and @ReaManny.
Manny Rea is a journalism sophomore and the current health reporter for The Alligator. He worked as a copy editor in his freshman year before moving over to the Avenue in summer 2020. He likes to listen to dollar-bin records and read comics, and he is patiently waiting to go back to movies and concerts.
Carolina is a second-year journalism major with a minor in sustainability. In the past, she covered stories and events for WUFT, and she is now reporting on Student Government for The Alligator. Carolina loves to do yoga and go to the beach whenever she isn't writing.