Tiffany Haddish might be the queen of funny, but her life has been anything but a joke. From her rough childhood to marriage troubles, she has had her fair share of ups and downs. Here’s the truth about her life story. (video)
Haddish was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, California. Her father, Tsihaye Reda Haddish, was a refugee from Eritrea, and was from an Ethiopian-Jewish family. Her mother, Leola, was an African American small business owner. After Haddish’s father left when she was three years old, her mother remarried and had Haddish’s two half-sisters and two half-brothers.
In 1988, while her family was living in Colton, California, Haddish’s mother Leola suffered severe brain damage in a car accident. It was believed to cause Leola’s schizophrenia; Haddish said her mother became quick-tempered, abusive and violent. Haddish, then nine years old and the oldest of five siblings, became the family’s primary caregiver. It was around this time that Haddish discovered her gift for making people laugh. She said, “If I could make [Leola] laugh and turn her anger into some joy, I was less likely to get beat. Same thing in school: If I could make the kids laugh, they’d help me with my homework and protect me from other bullies.”
According to Haddish, her stepfather later told her he had tampered with the brakes on her mother’s car, intending the wreck to kill Haddish, her siblings, and her mother so he could collect on their life insurance policies. However, the children chose to stay home that day, and the accident was not fatal for her mother.
When Haddish was 12, she and her siblings were put into foster care and temporarily separated from one another. While there, she used comedy to cope with being with unfamiliar people. When she was 15, she and her siblings were reunited under their grandmother’s care.
She attended George Ellery Hale Middle School in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles and graduated from El Camino Real High School, also in Woodland Hills, where she was the school mascot. She said she could not read very well until high school, but improved when she received tutoring from a teacher. She also got in a lot of trouble at school, despite her award-winning participation in drama competitions presenting Shakespearean monologues. In 1997, after her social worker gave her an ultimatum to either attend psychiatric therapy or the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp, 17-year-old Haddish opted for comedy as outlet for her pain. She says that the mentorship from many notable comedians—including Richard Pryor, Dane Cook, Charles Fleischer and the Wayans brothers—helped her discover a passion for comedy that “literally saved her life.” She incorporates her life experiences in her sets, finding that it functions as a “safe space” for her.
In 2008, Haddish stated that at age 17, she was raped by a police cadet. She said this led to her aggressiveness in avoiding unwanted advances from men.
Haddish was accepted to New York University, but cited the tuition and her aversion for debt kept her from attending. She later attended Santa Monica College. Before her on-screen success, she held a number of jobs, including customer service for Air New Zealand at Los Angeles International Airport and Alaska Airlines. She said she lived in her car during her 20s, in her early days of comedy. (wiki)
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