Tiffany Haddish's Tribute To Oprah Highlights Just How Much She Inspired Her To Chase Her Dreams
Tiffany Haddish, breakout star of the 2017 comedy Girls Trip, is known for her ability to make people laugh, but Haddish's emotional tribute to Oprah Winfrey for TIME's list of the 100 Most Influential People, might bring on a few tears.
Haddish, who is also on the list, wrote about her first time meeting Winfrey when she was an extra on the set of the 2005 movie, Their Eyes Were Watching God, which the mogul produced. In typical fashion, the actor was cracking jokes and Winfrey stopped to ask her name, complimenting her comedic skills. "She told me to keep her updated on my career," wrote Haddish. "So I wrote her all these letters, and she never wrote me back."
In February, however, Winfrey surprised Haddish during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Haddish began crying and ran up to hug Winfrey, whom she immediately forgave for not responding. Reflecting on that moment for TIME, Haddish — who also played Jackie in the first season of the Oprah Winfrey Network series, If Loving You Is Wrong in 2014 — wrote, "That was everything. It made me feel like I’m on the right track, and it inspired me to push even harder."
Winfrey has inspired Haddish since she was 7 years old, and she watched The Oprah Winfrey Show afterschool, which gave her the confidence to go after what she wanted. "Oprah had the roughest childhood and has gone through all these difficulties," Haddish wrote. "But no matter what, she stays focused on her goals and achieves them. She made her dreams come true. And because I watched her, I did too."
Both Haddish and Winfrey have had banner years. Since her turn in Girls Trip, which generated Oscar buzz, Haddish released a best-selling book The Last Black Unicorn and landed both a Super Bowl commercial and a new sitcom on TBS called The Last O.G. She also sparked the "Who Bit Beyoncé?" debate that took the internet by storm in March when she mentioned the incident in an interview with GQ.
All of Haddish's success was the result of years of effort. “It’s what I’ve been working for for 19 years now,” she told People in 2017. “Just really been putting in all this work and the fruits of my labor are really starting to show.”
Meanwhile, Winfrey has stayed as busy as ever. The 64-year-old has continued to produce and appear in shows for OWN, and recently starred in Ava DuVernay's groundbreaking adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, based on the book written by Madeleine L'Engle. Winfrey starred alongside Reese Witherspoon and newcomer Storm Reid, and named it as a professional highlight.
"Working on Wrinkle in Time was one of the best experiences of my career,” she told People in February. “I love Ava’s vision that this is a film about young women, people who are willing to step up and be warriors.”
Other names to make the list include Adam Rippon, whose tribute was penned by Cher; Lady Bird director Greta Gerwig, who was written up by Steven Spielberg; and Kesha, accompanied by words from Cyndi Lauper.
In a letter published Thursday, TIME's editor-in-chief, Edward Felsenthal, explained that the list "is a designation of individuals whose time, in our estimation, is now." He noted that the list is not necessarily measure of power or even overall accomplishments. "As our staff considers candidates, we often find ourselves wowed by those with stunning lifetime achievements," he wrote. "But editorial director Dan Macsai, maestro of the TIME 100, brings us back to the key question: Was this their year?"
When it comes to Haddish and Oprah, there is no doubt about it.