We Love New York!

We Love New York!

Interview by Patia Borja / Photography by Ace Amir / Styling by Jahulie Elizalde / Fashion direction by CFDA

With fashion direction by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), featuring all New York-based brands.

The inventor of the internet is a Black woman, and her name is Tiffany "New York" Pollard. A real-life reaction GIF, her iconic (an overused descriptor that's perhaps only apt when describing the woman who gave us this enduring catchphrase) turns on blueprint VH1 shows Flavor of Love and I Love New York have seeped deep into our very online culture. Years after her debut, she's still giving us moment after moment, whether that's on the Fenty Beauty YouTube channel or her always-delicious talk show Brunch With Tiffany.

On November 23, the original HBIC will save 2020 by reuniting the I Love New York cast for a one-hour special hosted by Vivica A. Fox that's certain to spawn brand new memes featuring New York and Sister Patterson. We wanted to catch her first, and so asked the only logical heiress to her legacy, Patia Borja, to get in touch. As creator and co-admin of the influential Instagram Patia's Fantasy World, Borja is fluent in the New York catchphrases that proliferate on Black social media and beyond.

Unsurprisingly, the two formed an immediate bond.

Coat: AREA

Patia: So how are you today?

Tiffany: I'm wonderful! I have been doing all this amazing press for I Love New York Reunited. So it's just been a fabulous morning, and here you are looking gorgeous. Showing a little cleavage and I'm loving this chest tattoo, Miss Thang!

Patia: So, I run a meme account with three of my friends and we're all Black, and we all love the show I Love New York. The memes, that's the good shit. I think all of my friends' sense of humor comes from you. We're always using your photos as reactions, since before social media was even a thing. You really are, and I'm sure everyone says it, so iconic.

Tiffany: Thank you, darling. It's so flattering. You're 28, you're a baby, and then there's even babies younger than you that know the show. It feels incredible. And I do have to say a lot of that has to do with the memes that are out. And then also, you know, VH1 throwing on those marathons every once in a while, definitely helps.

Patia: Me and my friends really look up to you. I think it inspired me to see that on TV. I was like, "Wait, I can act however the fuck I want to act." I'm not gonna be disrespected. When I grew up I was kind of taught: don't be too loud, blah, blah, blah. But to see that on TV, I was like, "Oh, imma act like her." Like a person I want to be.

Tiffany: Your voice is important. It needs to be heard and your emotions are important and those things need to be expressed. When you're living your life and you're being true to yourself, that's exactly what you're doing. Like, you're not even imitating me. It was just basically you saying, "Hey, we don't have to be demure and silent and quiet." If you got something to say, you've got to say it, you know?

Clothing and accessories: Marc Jacobs

Patia: Which leads into my next question. Do you feel like you've gotten your flowers for being the pioneer of reality TV? 'Cause a lot of reality TV is built on you. The personas people bring onto a show. You are a pioneer — do you feel overlooked? Because I just feel like, if you were running for president, I'd be like, let's go.

Tiffany: Wow, that would be a big job, I might be up for it. Now, I don't think I ever feel overlooked. Only because I know who I am with the light and spotlight and camera, and without it. And I think when you have a strong sense of self that is developed, nothing could ever step on that. Have I gotten my flowers? Absolutely. I feel like people pay attention. And I get a lot of respect in the streets, as I should, you know.

Patia: You mentioned the reunion earlier. There's always a reunion of something, but I think in this case, everyone actually wants to see you. So what will it entail?

Tiffany: If everybody wants to see me, they'll be seeing a lot of me. Absolutely. I will be there front and center. Sister Patterson, she's right there by my side, helping me through this reunion. And obviously, we have the fabulous Vivica A. Fox hosting and there's going to be secrets and surprises. It's gonna be fun. And the date is perfect. You know, November 23, the holidays, a big family affair, a gathering, if you will. And that's what we need.

"I was frustrated. I was pissed off. I was angry. I'm just sitting there. And now for that moment to play out like that is a huge meme. I'm like, only if they knew what I was going through. I was not happy with these girls." –Tiffany Pollard

Patia: The energy of the show is like you're actually in the room. Every type of person can connect with you on that show. Because you are such a vibrant person. There's the times where not everything is so good. And you're really honest about it. And I think that's why people really come back. Because they feel like that sometimes. I don't think you really get that from a lot of reality TV. We love a real person.

Tiffany: I need you to help me write my memoir. I agree with everything that you're saying. And it's not always easy to be this real. You guys have seen some of the most vulnerable times in my life. Being spit on, on national television. That was a lot of rage and a lot of just emotions. You guys have seen me at my best and my worst. So I need to just be able to be real like you're saying, you know, I always think it's important to stay true to that.

Patia: If you didn't go on the show, where do you think you would be now? What did you want to be outside of this?

Tiffany: Before I got discovered — literally walking down Hollywood Boulevard — I was a buyer for a clothing store. So I was already in the game a little bit. So I definitely think I would be in fashion. But I do have some other goals, some specific goals that I definitely want to dig into very soon. So you got some new elements over here.

Dress: Jackson Wiederhoeft, Boots: Anna Sui

Patia: You need to do those early 2000s dresses you would wear.

Tiffany: Oh, that's a good note. Let me store that.

Patia: Little sparkly heels.

Tiffany: Oh, yes. Full glam.

Patia: You should do an eyeshadow palette. To bring it back, I read in an interview that one of your favorite memes was the "Bye Pumkin" one. You mentioned how that was such a real and intense moment. Do you have any other favorite memes of yourself? I'm thinking the one of you sitting on the bed...

Tiffany: Took the words out my mouth girl. Yeah, I literally remember how I was feeling in that moment. And I was frustrated. I was pissed off. I was angry. I'm just sitting there. And now for that moment to play out like that is a huge meme. I'm like, only if they knew what I was going through. I was not happy with these girls.

Patia: That image is like the image of 2020, as a whole.

Tiffany: Without saying anything, right?

Patia: You've contributed so much to language and how young people speak. This show is called I Love New York. You're that bitch. I think you're what we all aspire to be. Especially during quarantine, my friends and I will be in our houses and we'll start playing the show on our Macbooks at the same time. It's something I watch when I'm sad. I'm just like, let me rewind it through.

Tiffany: Oh, wow. Touches my heart. If you watch that and you laugh and you feel inspired. I feel like I've done the damn thing.

Patia: I'll connect the people that I'm having drama with, with certain characters. And I'm like, okay, let's see her on the street. This is what I'm gonna say. Let's go. How would you describe the show to people who haven't seen it?

Suit: Eckhaus Latta

Tiffany: I would just say let it happen. That's literally my approach to everything. Allow it to happen. I've seen Nicki Minaj tweet, like, "Who is this woman?" And it was a meme of me doing something. It's gonna transcend, or you're gonna figure out who I am at some point if it's supposed to happen. I don't really think about it that much. Like how am I supposed to know who I am? They're gonna discover.

Patia: After you got discovered walking down Hollywood Boulevard, was it hard to adapt to the cameras at first?

Tiffany: That's a fabulous question. And I'm gonna answer it so honestly. I had to remind myself that I was on camera. It's just this little black lens, you forget that it's there. You're just living and walking around and just being yourself. Then, oh my gosh, the camera puts you on TV and gets you a career. But in that moment, it's like, it's not even there. You forget.

Patia: There are a lot of reality shows, but I always thought dating ones were the most interesting. Especially for people like me in high school who had never had a boyfriend.

"When you have a strong sense of self that is developed, nothing could ever step on that. Have I gotten my flowers? Absolutely. I feel like people pay attention. And I get a lot of respect in the streets, as I should, you know." –Tiffany Pollard

Tiffany: No boyfriend? We need to get you on a dating show after this interview.

Patia: Your show was a good reference point! I would take notes. I was in high school watching that, thinking, that man can't hold a conversation. He got to go. You were also showing the reality of how you don't care if they're cute. It's, can they be a whole person and deliver. If they can't even hold a conversation...

Tiffany: That's not the one.

Patia: You set the bar that everyone in dating needs to have. Or else you're gonna look like a clown.

Tiffany: Exactly. And if you can't make me laugh, I can't have a relationship with you. Humor is right there at the top of my list. I like a man to keep me in stitches.

Patia: That's exactly how I am. I don't need someone constantly calling me beautiful. Like, I know that. You need to make me laugh. Some guys will DM me, but they'll DM me old memes. No. So how is Sister Patterson?

Coat: AREA

Tiffany: She is amazing! She was just rolling on wheels. When you see I Love New York Reunited, you're gonna be like, "Oh my goodness, Sister Patterson is just sharp like a blade." She's on it. There's no stopping her.

Patia: Are y'all staying in the same place during this quarantine or are y'all living your lives?

Tiffany: We stay prayed up, we carefully see each other. Staying safe and being tested and knowing our status. I think it's really important, being wise about the virus. This thing is not over with yet. Wash your hands, wear your mask, all that good stuff.

Patia: The beauty of technology is that we can also be connected even during this time. I'm a homebody, so I'm not really one who really needs physical contact all the time. But it is reassuring to know that I can FaceTime my mom.

Tiffany: I'm a homebody too. I wouldn't leave the house if nobody called me, you know? I'm a Capricorn so I guess that's how I am. It's good to be able to log in with your family.

Patia: Okay, so you're a Capricorn and a homebody. I don't think many people would expect that. I'm a Cancer.

Tiffany: My longest relationship I've ever had was with a Cancer. And you guys have such great energy. Very sensitive but very loyal and that's always a good thing.

Dress: Reem Acra

Patia: People will be like, "you're a crybaby." And I'm like, "and?"

Tiffany: Yeah, that's a good thing.

Patia: I said it before, but you're such a pioneer. You know, in New York, you always see famous people. I worked at a restaurant. Even with a meme account, sometimes I do interviews, and people will ask who is the one person I'd most want to talk to. And I don't know. Fame doesn't faze me, and I suppose I don't see you as famous, I feel like you were like a real person who did your thing. And, I really feel like you paved the way for women like me and my friends. You really embrace this attitude of being unafraid. And being unapologetic.

Tiffany: Absolutely. And, you know, that's something that you have to carry, whether it's easy to do or not. I don't care who I'm in the company of, I'm going to be myself. And I'm going to say whatever the hell I want to say. So for you to acknowledge that about me, that's my goal. Seriously.

"I don't care who I'm in the company of, I'm going to be myself. And I'm going to say whatever the hell I want to say." –Tiffany Pollard

Patia: What's the future looking like for you? I know it's hard to think about those things right now.

Tiffany: I'm glad that you put that disclaimer on there. It's a reality that we all unfortunately have to live through, even though we have our plans and our goals. But so far, I would say 2021 is looking like there'll be more episodes of Brunch with Tiffany. And some other wonderful projects as well in the making. So I'm gonna stay as busy as I can, like you said through this situation.

Coat: AREA

Patia: My meme account really started started off as a safe space for Black people to laugh on the internet. Because I feel like there wasn't really one designated place. I also struggle with mental health. It's like, no matter how much like, free bags and clothes you're getting, keeping your mental health afloat is a really hard thing. Especially being a Black woman. No one's really like paying attention, no one's really checking in mentally. How do you keep your mental health afloat? How do you stay grounded and positive?

Tiffany: I'm glad you put it the way you did. You set it up perfectly for me to answer this. Because a lot of times in our community, especially coming up, we didn't know it was okay to have a little bit of a mental situation. And to look at it and dissect it and try to figure out how to overcome it. It's like, oh, check those feelings off. Or oh, ain't nothing wrong with you. We don't play with that in our community, mental health, that's taboo. So I feel like you have to embrace what you're going through and say, hey, no, mental health is a real thing. It's important to take care of yourself mentally. It's okay to feel a little bit sad one day from the next or to feel a little bit unsure about things. So it's just about developing things that can help get you through. For me, it's always prayer. As long as I'm checking in with God, I know I'm gonna be good. Second thing I do is I have to talk to myself. You're fine. You'll be okay. You say that four or five times a day, you begin to believe it.

Patia: I hope I asked the right questions! I was so nervous. Do you have any last words for the readers?

Tiffany: Well, first of all, I'm a fan of PAPER magazine. I'm gonna say that first and foremost. And I just want to thank them and obviously VH1 for making that connection, for it to happen. It's been a long time since your girl graced the magazine, let alone a cover. So, with that being said, I also want to say that I just give hope to everyone. And, it's important for us to stay washing our hands and wearing our masks. But ultimately, it's very important for us to just keep knowing that the best is yet to come, we should stick together as a nation and just rebuild. And I just feel like soon this will all be wrapped. Stay hopeful.

Blazer: Dirty Pineapple

From the start, 2020 has felt like a pivotal turning point for America. Ahead of what could be the most consequential election in our lifetimes, many of us are starting to re-think our behaviors, question old assumptions and challenge longstanding institutions. Through it all, there are plenty of reasons to feel inspired.

Highlighting compelling people in pop culture, politics and the arts, PAPER will examine America in all of its splendor, grit and complexity, and search for the stories that give us hope, compel us to be better versions of ourselves and to understand America as the multi-faceted, dynamic place — and idea — that it is.