At a Vanity Fair Oscars party on Sunday, a red carpet reporter referred to actress and comedian Tiffany Haddish’s designer gown as a “costume.” The clip, filmed for Entertainment Tonight, has since gone viral.
After the reporter, Lauren Zima, asks Haddish if she’s had “a little costume change,” Haddish doesn’t skip a beat.
“I’m not wearing a costume,” she replies. “I’m wearing Dolce & Gabbana. It’s called an evening gown, darling.”
And it’s only because Haddish responds so directly that Zima then catches herself, realising the assumptions in her own words. Haddish continues: “No one is paying me for this. I paid for it, it’s custom. Thank you.”
Zima then jokes about that moment being her “time of death.”
Mistaking someone’s over-the-top, emerald-sequinned, scarf-draped outfit for a costume isn’t a stretch. Someone could wear a very similar looking outfit to a fancy dress party and pass as a sea creature or Disney character. But language holds many connotations, and this comment had nothing to do with what Haddish was wearing.
The moment Zima steers the interview off the cliff is when she forgets where she is: at her job, speaking to people who, like her, do entertainment for a living. And she’s not on just any red carpet – she’s at the Vanity Fair Oscars party, the Academy Awards’ post-ceremony event to which winners, nominees and other Hollywood stars are invited, and have been for the past 25 years.
By calling Haddish’s outfit a costume, however seemingly harmless, Zima implies that Haddish is dressing up as something she is not… which in this case is a celebrity worthy of being at an Oscars event. We should ask ourselves: would the same question be asked of a white actress such as Jessica Chastain?
Whatever bias her comment was fuelled by – Haddish’s gender, race, widely talked about poor upbringing, or most likely a combination of the three – this is the kind of microaggression that almost every Black woman has faced.
With Black women already disproportionately experiencing offhand, discriminatory comments on a regular basis, mistakes like Zima’s hold a lot more weight, and cut a lot deeper for us.
Her comeback didn’t even stop there either.
“This is not an act, this is my life. This is what fame looks like. This is what success looks like. This is what money looks like,” she says to Zima. “This is what it looks like.”
Haddish dozing her way so swiftly and eloquently out of that situation is reminiscent of the way Black women continue to push past obstacles and aggressors in our everyday lives.
I want to thank Ms. Tiffany Haddish for putting that reporter in their place and for reminding us all that we really can talk our talk right back.
And yes, this is what success looks like. We’ll just wait for everyone else to catch up and realise it too.
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