Tiffany Haddish reveals she couldn’t read until her teen years

The actress, who had a turbulent family life, reveals she was functionally illiterate for much of her youth

Tiffany Haddish comedian reading
Tiffany Haddish performs on Byron Allen’s Feeding America Comedy Festival, co-produced by Entertainment Studios and Funny or Die, broadcasted on NBC, The Weather Channel, Comedy.TV and Local Now on May 10, 2020. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for Allen Media Group)

Tiffany Haddish’s ascension as one of the most in-demand comedic actors in Hollywood is only eclipsed by her story of overcoming a turbulent childhood. During a recent interview on VLAD TV, the stand-up comic reveals that she had trouble reading as a child.

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Haddish, 40, was featured on the popular YouTube interview show, created by former DJ, Vladislav Lyubovny. However, instead of Vlad, Haddish was interviewed by fellow comedian Luenell.

The Night School actress spoke about her come-up in California, living in foster homes, connecting with her Eritrean roots, and finding her comic voice at the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp.

Luenell referenced Haddish’s book, “The Last Black Unicorn,” which was a New York Times Best Seller in 2017. Haddish narrated the audio version of the book, which was nominated for a 2018 Grammy.

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It was at this point that Haddish spoke of the irony of getting a Grammy nod for book narration when there was one point she was unable to read at all.

“That was kinda cool to be nominated for a Grammy for reading out loud when I couldn’t read at one point in time in my life when I was in my teens,” Haddish disclosed. She said that a drama teacher helped her learn to read.

Tiffany Haddish reading childhood
Actress Tiffany Haddish helps donate Chromebook computers to students in foster care during a drive-thru giveaway event at Wesson’s district office on July 30, 2020, in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

When Luenell asked what caused Haddish’s literacy issues, she said much of it was a lack of self-esteem based on the messages she received in childhood.

“Because I thought I was stupid. Everybody would say to me, ‘You’re stupid, you’re stupid, you so stupid.’ At that time in my life, I took things literally,” Haddish said. “So if everybody’s telling me you’re stupid – my stepdad, my mom, grandma, everybody used to say, ‘You so stupid.’ So, I believed I was stupid and I can’t read and I can’t do these things because I’m stupid.”

However, when she was 18 and worked at the Los Angeles airport, a woman Haddish encountered there gave her a different perspective. When she said ‘Girl, you so stupid,’ Haddish says she was ready to fight, until the stranger clarified that she meant stupid as in ‘funny.’

Common Tiffany Haddish
Common and Tiffany Haddish attend Toast To The Arts Presented by Remy Martin on March 2, 2018, in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for Remy Martin)

“All these years people been telling me I’m funny, but they didn’t say ‘funny,’ they said ‘you stupid?’ So, I learned a lesson that day.”

Haddish is currently dating rapper Common, as previously reported by theGrio. She says it’s been the best relationship of her life.

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