On June 3, 2020, comedian, actress, and former foster youth Tiffany Haddish held a virtual Q&A for youth in JCCA’s foster care and residential programs. She was fearlessly authentic. For reasons of confidentiality, we could not include every portion of the zoom in our video, but what Tiffany said was so inspiring we wanted to share more of her words below.
Tiffany started the call with brief remarks about herself and her experience in foster care. “I felt like I was in jail [at first]. I didn’t like it,” she said. “I know how hard it is to feel like you’ve been abandoned, to feel like you’ve been ripped, torn away from something…I did not allow [negative experiences] to keep me from pursuing my dreams. I used that to fuel my dreams.” When she started coming across “really great” families, she began to feel a little more positively about the system, and slowly began to discover some of the resources available to her.
Once it was time to pivot to the Q&A portion, the kids’ excitement was palpable. Tiffany’s dynamic honesty and positivity about her experience was instantly engaging. The kids, clearly inspired by her success, wanted to know how she kept going, and how she “got through everything by herself.”
Success, she reminded them, did not mean doing everything by herself: “I ended up homeless three times because I thought, ‘I gotta do it all by myself.’ I ended up homeless and it was horrible. What I realized is to not be afraid to ask for help. Never be afraid. That is the best way to go about it. There are social workers, counselors, there are people that want to help you. Take advantage of that! There are so many resources for foster youth. Take advantage of that help. Ask for help.”
One young person was a little doubtful about this advice, but Tiffany had the answer. “If you have no fear of going to each adult around you and asking for help- they’re gonna help you!” she promised. “Look at them dead in the eye and say, ‘Hey man, you said you were gonna help me, and you didn’t help me!’ If you keep asking, they will know you are serious.”
“What keeps you inspired and motivated?” another teen asked. “My inspiration is you guys! You guys are my future. You can work through it and rise up,” Tiffany answered. “You were made perfectly. Period,” she reminded them.
A young woman in foster care patiently waited for her turn to ask Tiffany a question. “You wrote a book?” she asked. “What advice can you give to foster kids like me that want to write their own book and share their story?”
“If you tell your truth before anybody else can tell it, then you never have to hide,” Tiffany said. “Your story is probably ten times more interesting than mine. I’m just telling it…Even if you don’t feel like your story is strong enough to tell, write it down. The power of being able to tell your truth [is] immense. Be yourself. Be you!”