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When a $4,000 dress is a symbol of frugality

By Michelle Singletary

March 6, 2018 at 5:20 PM

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Tiffany Haddish is always having a good time, and she has plenty of advice on how you can, too. (Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)

My new favorite comedian is Tiffany Haddish. She’s a penny-pinching heroine.

Don’t know her? You will.

Haddish was the breakout star in last year’s comedy box-office hit “Girls Trip.” Off-screen, Haddish — who grew up in foster care and is now socializing with big-time uber-wealthy actors and actresses such as Will and Jada Pinkett Smith — is holding on to her frugal roots.

Most recently, Haddish shared the stage at the Academy Awards with fellow comedian Maya Rudolph. They both were hilarious. Right away I noticed Haddish’s dress, a stunning white gown from Alexander McQueen with a bejeweled neckline.

Haddish paid a lot of money to wear it for the red-carpet premiere of “Girls Trip.” And she has vowed to keep wearing it to get her money’s worth.

The gown co-starred with her when she hosted “Saturday Night Live” last November. It was during her opening monologue that Haddish introduced me to the dress. I’m not embarrassed to say I had never heard of the designer. I mean, I can’t bring myself to buy a $110 pair of Ugg boots, which are supposedly the winter footwear to have.

Haddish riffed on SNL about how people will try to shame you over what you wear. She set up the punchlines about the dress with a conversation she had with megastar comedian Kevin Hart. The two of them had worked on a movie last summer, and Hart took notice of Haddish’s love of travel.

Related: [Love and money: Coping in a marriage with your financial opposite]

“Kevin came up to me one day at work and said, ‘Tiffany, you been to Thailand, China, Japan. You went to Florida. You went to Texas. You went to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and you did all that in the same day?’ I was like, ‘Nah, Kevin, it took me like two years to go to all those places.’ ”

To which Hart said, “Really? Because I went on your Instagram and you was wearing the same outfit in all those places.”

People are always trying to call you out for your frugality.

“That’s what I can’t stand about the Internet,” Haddish added. “It’s messing with my fashion game. I feel like I should be able to wear what I want, when I want, however many times I want, as long as I Febreezed it. What!”

Love this woman.

Then came the story about the dress, which Haddish said her whole team warned her she couldn’t wear again. Doing so wouldn’t look good for her rising status.

“I don’t give a dang about no taboo,” Haddish said defiantly during the SNL monologue. “I spent a lot of money on this dress. This dress cost way more than my mortgage. . . . This is a $4,000 dress. I’m going to wear this dress multiple times.”

Watch the full monologue here on YouTube.

I wanted to ask Haddish about her commitment to living below her means. Can she keep it going in the face of so much pressure to look the part of a successful entertainer?

In various interviews and in her book of personal essays called “The Last Black Unicorn,” she candidly (and hilariously) talks about her financial struggles, including having to live in her car. But now that her star is rising and the money is coming in, I wanted to know what strategies she plans to use to stay financially grounded.

Related: [Has your frugality gone too far?]

“I’m so sorry, but Tiffany is slammed and not available for an interview at this time,” her representative emailed me.

That’s okay — her actions speak volumes.

There’s an expectation that Haddish, as an actress, has to look the Hollywood part. You have to wear extravagant gowns. At awards time, major entertainers can get designers to lend them clothes and jewelry. But there is still the house, the impressive car and, of course, the entourage.

Even when you make millions, you can still go broke. Just recently, there have been news reports of a lawsuit involving Lisa Marie Presley and her former business manager, whom Presley has accused of mishandling her money. The manager says Presley, the only child of Elvis Presley, lost her fortune because of out-of-control spending.

Former managers of Johnny Depp have said he mismanaged his money, leading to financial troubles. Rapper 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis James Jackson III, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Movie mogul Francis Ford Coppola has filed for bankruptcy protection multiple times.

Although wearing the Alexander McQueen dress is now part of her shtick, Haddish continues to talk about watching her spending. She loves Groupon and, in fact, has become a spokeswoman for the company.

As absurd as it sounds, Haddish has turned a $4,000 dress into a symbol of thriftiness. Good for her. So, ladies, if you say yes to the dress, wear it multiple times!

Read more:

How much does it take to be wealthy?

The 401(k) millionaire next door


Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column The Color of Money. Her award-winning column is syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group and is carried in dozens of newspapers nationwide.

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Get There | Perspective

When a $4,000 dress is a symbol of frugality

By Michelle Singletary

March 6, 2018 at 5:20 PM

Watch more!
Tiffany Haddish is always having a good time, and she has plenty of advice on how you can, too. (Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)

My new favorite comedian is Tiffany Haddish. She’s a penny-pinching heroine.

Don’t know her? You will.

Haddish was the breakout star in last year’s comedy box-office hit “Girls Trip.” Off-screen, Haddish — who grew up in foster care and is now socializing with big-time uber-wealthy actors and actresses such as Will and Jada Pinkett Smith — is holding on to her frugal roots.

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