Tiffany Pollard Is A Hero In The House of Villains

The reality TV pioneer formerly known as New York gets one very unusual fan request.

by Justin Kirkland

Before we get started, I need to tell you that Tiffany Pollard does not use the word “villain” the way you or I might.

“I feel like a villain is just someone who’s confident,” says Pollard, who currently appears on the new E! competition series, House of Villains. “Someone who has a certain air about themselves, and they’re driven and they know what they want out of life. … A villain could be a friend or someone to light a fire and encourage you to remember who you are and make sure you’re living your best life.”

I suggest to Pollard that this might be, by most people’s standards, an unusual connotation. “This is where I feel like I should have paid attention more in school so I can know the correct definition,” she says. “Maybe I’ll go online and look at the Webster’s Dictionary description of a villain, because I don’t really take that word as harsh as most may.”

In Pollard’s defense, she has perfectly summed up the spicy self-regard that has endeared her to the public since she first appeared on Flavor of Love in 2006. And you don’t become a reality TV legend by accepting conventional wisdom. House of Villains brings together a motley crew of notorious, genre-specific villains, from Vanderpump Rules’ Jax Taylor to Survivor’s Jonny Fairplay. But none of them is as beloved as Pollard is for dressing others down.

House of Villains stars Fairplay, Corinne Olympios, Pollard, and Shake Chatterjee.Casey Durkin/E! Entertainment

Take reality star and former White House aide Omarosa Manigault. In the teaser trailer alone, we see Pollard and Manigault facing off, with Pollard calling her a “c**k sucking, c*m guzzling Republican c*nt.” You know, casual language.

“I’m not going to lie, when I saw that she was going to be a part of this, I’m like, ‘Finally, someone I can throw the heavy artillery at and be able to take it.’ You know what I mean?” Pollard says. She laughs. “I just had to slightly, politely put her in her place a little bit so she could slow down and get off my back.”

Pollard’s sharp tongue inspired Flavor Flav to give her the nickname “New York” on Flavor of Love, and she carried that name to the spinoff I Love New York. I ask: Is “New York” a character Pollard turns on and off?

“I wish there was a defining line because sometimes I can people piss off that’s in my real life. For instance, my fiancé, he's like, Did you just really say that, Tiffany? Because I’m one of those people that will forget that I’m on camera or forget that an interview is a real interview,” she explains. “Sometimes that gets me in trouble because I don’t separate the two.”

I’m just not going out of my way to be as angry and as frustrated as I used to be to make sure ratings would happen.

But it’s hard to stay mad at yourself when the very thing that gets you trouble is also the reason for your success. “[In reality TV] you’re literally painting your own picture with your paintbrush,” she says. “You have to just be real and let it all spill out, the good and the bad.”

When Flavor of Love aired, the typical reality TV dating show contestant was a soft-spoken white woman who was on The Bachelor “for the right reasons.” Then there’s Tiffany Pollard: a self-proclaimed “head b*tch in charge” unafraid to be sexy and seductive one moment, God-fearing the next, and then assertive to the point of throwing hands five minutes later. “Those things that used to be not celebrated or looked at as — let’s say, maybe ghetto or classless?” She pauses to collect her thoughts. “Now it’s accepted because a person is able to be who she is authentically without putting on a certain voice or being this template of a woman that you think you have to be.”

Pollard encourages other mold-breakers as host of OutTV’s Hot Haus, aimed at finding the next queer sex symbol. When I asked her about why speaking out for the queer community is so important to her, she says, “Well, I’ve always been non-binary. I’ve always been that way, literally since kindergarten. … I just don’t feel like there should be any type of defining lines in terms of love. I think I was in love with my fifth-grade teacher. I can’t remember her name. Love is just love.”

Pollard with fellow Flavor of Love stars Jesselyn “Wire” Desmond and Britney “Tiger” Morano in 2006. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The irony of Pollard’s villain status is that, in one of the most infamous moments of her career, Pollard was the victim. Close to the end of Flavor of Love, loser Brooke “Pumkin” Thompson hocked a loogie that landed squarely on Pollard’s face. (It… did not end well for Thompson.) Though Pollard doubts there will ever be a reconciliation — according to Pollard, there have been multiple on-screen attempts, but Thompson eventually cancels — she has gained some perspective on the episode. “You know what Flav told me one day? He was like, ‘Tiff, that’s an iconic moment because people probably wouldn’t really know who you were if that hadn’t happened. That really put things on the map for you.’ He was like, ‘Don’t look at it as such a negative situation.’”

Being part of an iconic television moment is a double-edged sword, though. “Over the years, I feel like people don’t want change. I’m 41. People still want the 23-year-old to enter into the room and act the same exact way,” Pollard says. “Now these are things where you have to sit down and have conversations with yourself and you go, ‘Hey, Tiff, are you living for them today or are you going to live for yourself and execute this the way you see fit?’”

People ask me to spit on them. I’ve had that happen a few times, and I’m like I don’t want to do that.

These days, Pollard believes in picking her battles. “If the circumstance calls for it, I can still read and do all that stuff and put somebody in their place, but I’m just not going out of my way to be as angry and as frustrated as I used to be to make sure ratings would happen.”

But as long as Pollard memes and GIFs circulate, there will probably always be the fans who stop her in the club asking for a very specific favor. “People ask me to spit on them. I’ve had that happen a few times, and I’m like I don’t want to do that.”

“But one person,” Pollard begins before trailing off. “I’ll leave that alone…”

“Well, she begged me to spit on her,” she begins again, knowing exactly how to bait someone with a juicy detail. I goad her for more.

Finally, she says, “You know what? I want to say that the cocktails were flowing great enough to where I just gave her maybe a little...” Pollard makes a sharp spitting noise, then lets out an ear-ringing cackle. “She’s like, I’m never washing this off ever.”