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Tiffany Haddish on Pay Parity, Licking Arsenio, and Why Emmys and Oscars Are Overrated

“More work! More work, and more sleep.”’

That’s what on Tiffany Haddish’s agenda for the rest of 2018, which has already been a tear for the comedian. She’s been on a winning streak at the box office, following up the hit “Girls Trip” with “Night School,” opposite Kevin Hart. Her autobiography became a best-seller, and she turned a history-making hosting gig at “Saturday Night Live” into an Emmy Award at the ceremony last month.

That impressive work ethic is what fuels the Variety Power of Women honoree, who proudly embraces her ambition. Here, she tells Variety what more we can expect from her.

When you look back over the course of the year, what moments stand out for you? What are you proudest of?

Meeting Oprah. That was really awesome. Getting the Tesla. I can’t think of everything else. It’s been a lot.

What about the Emmy?

Can I be honest? Not that much! Because I didn’t get a check with it. When people really want those Oscars so bad and those Emmys and everything so bad, I thought it was because they give you a check. Like they come out with the award and they hand you a check! I’ve been watching sports and NASCAR, horse races, championships, football games, they get a trophy, a ring, and a bonus check. But when you win an Emmy, they give you a gift bag of a bunch of things that you probably not going to really use. I like the trophy a lot, don’t get me wrong, but they could have put a check in there!

Jada [Pinkett Smith] broke it down to me and she said that it’s a big honor because that means your colleagues, the people that work in your same field, voted for you, and they like what you’re doing….[But] I care about being able to take care of my grandma, take care of my mama, my niece, my sister, and brother, and if I ever have children take care of them, create some generational wealth. And I think the only way to do that is to have some money so you can buy some land and things like that, and then buy a studio. Yeah, I need checks! I don’t think anybody’s obligated to give me anything. I only think I deserve what I work for and that’s that.

It’s refreshing to hear a woman talk openly about money.

I think the reason why, a lot times, we don’t get paid the same as men do is because we don’t talk about it. I think we do need to talk about it because I sure get in there and I’m like, “Hey, Kate Hudson. How much do they pay you for that? What kind of perks do you get for that?” I didn’t know they could fill your room up with whatever kind of food you want. That’s why I done gained so much weight, because she told me about all the food you can get. I’m like, you can bring me some tacos and I want an In-N-Out burger.

You know what they say? “A close mouth don’t get fed.” And a lot of times we don’t open our mouths because we don’t even really know what we’re supposed to get. So, that’s why I do the research. I ask around. I’ve made friends with line producers that cut those checks, production managers, so I can be like, “So, on average, how much does a girl get paid for? How much does a guy get paid?” OK, I’m gonna ask for the guy fee on this one.

It’s the same thing with the comedy clubs. I’ve made friends with a lot of the managers, especially in Los Angeles area so I can find out like how much y’all pay George Lopez when he pops in? So I know I can say, “Well, give me $4,000 for 35 minutes.”

Where does your work ethic come from?

Being homeless and hungry. When you get tired of washing your ass in the sink, you will be like you know what, I’m going to make sure this never happens again. I see my grandma work all the time, my aunties, all the people that’s ever been around me in my life, they work their asses off. I figured out the method to the madness is know your worth, don’t settle for less. If you’ve got to be hungry, oh well — somebody will come along that pays you what you worth.

That feels like an important message today.

Sometimes I like to go to elementary schools and talk to kids, and I just sit there, and watch them play. You can see how the boys are always told how great they are, and the girls are always told to sit down, be quiet, be sweet, be nice, be pretty. They never tell them what they’re worth, though! They are never told that they are awesome. Fuck that! You are smart! You’re dope. You deserve the best! That kind of language needs to be happening more especially for young women. Because there are so many of us out here with low self esteem where we know we can do something but we just aren’t sure if it’s OK, because mostly the guys do it, or everybody tells me I need to be quiet. No! Speak up, be you, be the best you that you can be, do whatever it is you love to do, and by all means necessary.

How did you find that confidence?

Being homeless! There’s something about not having a roof over your head, that’ll make you go you know what, I can do better! I just know I’m doing what I love to do, and I think that in that there is a lot of confidence. Especially when you’re doing what you love to do, and you’re doing good at it, and people are appreciating it. Coming up, and my grandmama didn’t for my mother, and my great grandmama didn’t do it for my grandma. The way they show love is a lot different; it was always like, “You could do better than that.” It was not nice. But I’m constantly telling myself that I love and approve of me. Not everybody’s going to love me. And I’m not here for everybody to love me, I’m here to bring joy, and everybody ain’t gonna receive the joy, that’s alright! Whoever do receive it, I did my job. Period.

What advice have you gotten along the way?

It’s a little twisted, but it’s the bad experiences that prepare you. Like when I was in foster care, moving around from house to house, being rejected. And then you get into the Hollywood business and people are constantly telling you you’re not good enough, your boobs are too small, you’re too black, you’re too loud, you’re too quiet, you’re too much of whatever. You’ll never be perfect for everybody, you’ve just got to be yourself. I learned that from Jada. [Queen] Latifah taught me how to really pay attention to people and see who you can trust and who you can’t. Loretta Devine has been so, so informative, and inspiring, and Whoopi Goldberg has taught me so many things about like, take some time to just be still, and just really meditate and think about what is it that you are trying to do. And to really listen to your gut instinct. Sometimes I didn’t listen and I bumped my head, but I learned eventually, sometimes you’ve just got to bump your head and hopefully you live, you survive it. Yeah! You get a few concussions.

Was there a moment that turned it around for you?

Arsenio, man! That’s another great mentor. When I did the Arsenio Hall show, I felt like this was it. I made it! When I finally got to meet him, he picked me up, and I licked his face. I probably shouldn’t have licked his face, but I couldn’t help myself, because I had dreamed about it for so many years. He looked like chocolate, so I licked him and he tasted just like Ovaltine. It was probably his foundation, but still! And he’s been my good friend ever since.

Do you think Hollywood has made any progress this year, or do we still have a long way to go?

I think we still have a long way to go. I personally think there’s still a lot that needs to be done and adjustments need to be made, but I think that comes with education. When you know better, you do better. I think it’s all about alignment, creating a certain synergy with certain people that are like-minded, and try to create the same thing you’re trying to create. You find people that are stronger where you’re weak, and y’all work together as a team. Then you can create whatever it is you want to create. You don’t have to wait for some man in the office or even a woman sitting up in the office at the top of the studio to say, “OK, you can do this.” You can do it yourself.

Look at Jordan Peele. He made “Get Out” for $4 million. That’s an idea he had for a long time. He wrote it out, fleshed it out, and he aligned himself with people that believed in that idea and they made it. And, boy, what a great return on that investment! So I feel like anybody can do it. Barbra Streisand — she wrote, produced, starred, directed “Prince of Tides.” She was the first woman to do all that. She’s a good guide, too. She taught me about the business. I taught her about Cardi B.

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