Tiffany Haddish Felt Like ‘Garbage’ Growing Up In Foster Care. She Now Works To Keep Foster Youth From Feeling The Same.
Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images

In order to truly understand Tiffany Haddish’s fervent approach to life, you have to know the background that made her into the woman and talent she is today. 

In her keynote conversation for the Variety Changemakers Summit, the Girls Trip actress opened up about how her experience navigating the foster care system left her uncertain about the future. 

“When I was in foster care, I mean, I thought I was going to die there,” Haddish recalled. “I didn’t think I would make it to 18. And when I made it to 18, I was like, ‘OK, I got to really think bigger.’ And I did think bigger, and I’m definitely where I thought I would be. Well, it’s bigger than what I thought, but I feel the way that I was hoping I would feel and that’s secure in my ability to provide for me.”

Haddish went on to recount the “physical” and “mental” abuse that she experienced while in foster but attributes those difficult moments to helping her gain the “people skills” that she’s been able to apply throughout her career. “I think those things made me strong enough to handle this business,” she shared. “It’s a lot of mess in Hollywood and you have to be strong. But I don’t want to be ‘strong,’ I just want to be a woman.” 

Over the years, Haddish achieved huge levels of success, from becoming a Grammy award-winning comedian to establishing her non-profit the She Ready Foundation, which pairs foster children with internship programs in the entertainment industry. The program was birthed out of Haddish’s desire to build up the self-esteem of transition-age foster youth and “take away the feeling of feeling like garbage from kids” that she experienced growing up.

“When I was a kid and I was moving around, all my stuff had to be in trash bags, and moving like that is not good for the self-esteem because it makes you feel like garbage that can easily be transported to here or there,” she said. 

“You start thinking of yourself as such, as garbage. That was the worst feeling in the world personally, and I told myself, if I ever get any power, I’m going to try to make sure kids don’t feel like that,” she added. “If I can reach out, I’m going to try to change that feeling for them.”

Her work for others has also helped her do inner work. And while it’s been challenging to overcome the adversity that she’s experienced growing up, Haddish is clear on her purpose and understands the value she brings to the world.

“Sometimes I do feel like I’m garbage, but I think that’s just the human condition,” she said. “Then I have to tell myself that ‘one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.’ I’m somebody’s treasure.”