It was her handiwork---an acrylic, tempered-glass painting of legendary actor Sidney Poitier---that ended up in the hands of Tyler Perry after his $20,000 bid trumped the young heir to the Carter empire.
Talk about boss moves.
Getting a spot in the auction, which raised funds for WACO, a youth organization founded by Tina Knowles and husband Richard Lawson, was a true testament to the power of cultivating a great network, being the best at what you do, and always being ready.
So how did she do it?
It all started with Anderson being asked to create a jacket for Trell Thomas, an entertainment PR, talent relations, and marketing professional. Anderson had previously worked with Thomas for VH1's Save the Music, and they'd kept in touch.
"A couple days before the auction, he said, 'Hey, do you have any art for the auction?' I just happened to have that Sidney Poitier piece at my studio. It worked out that it was perfect for that event," Anderson recalls during our chat. "I knew it would stand out and be nice there, but I didn't know it was going to blow up like that. It's incredible because you run a risk when your art is in an auction and it's public like that. If it doesn't do well, it could be a bad look. Having the Queen's baby bid on it---for me, it was exciting, very, very exciting. Beyonce, Jay Z, Tina Knowles---that's royalty to me. Barack and Michelle are the only people above them in my mind."
"Having the Queen's baby bid on it - for me, it was exciting. Beyonce, Jay Z, Tina Knowles - that's royalty to me."
Like any glow-up, Anderson's journey has not been without major challenges. In her late teens, she joined the pop group Girlicious (who was once mentored and co-signed by the Pussycat Dolls), but after a brief stint as a budding pop star, she decided to risk it all to redirect her life and find peace.
"I felt like the music industry didn't really make me happy because it was 10% singing and 90% trying to avoid being screwed over. I was very stressed out," she told me. "[I just wanted to] do something that would get my mind off work and take my concentration for a few hours.' I went to the store, bought some paints, and painted Barack Obama. I was like, 'Hey, I'm not half bad.' [Laughs] A year later, I sold a piece, quit the group and began pursuing painting full time."
She sold her first piece for $300 to a producer who wanted a portrait of his daughter. "I asked, 'You're gonna give me $300 just for painting your daughter?" He's like, 'Yeah.' And so I did it. Just the fairness of it---I did a service, and I got paid fair money for what I did---that was addictive. I knew I had to keep at it. At first it was hard. I had to be off the grid: no money, nowhere to live, my car was getting repossessed. It was hard for a long time before I started to build success and take care of myself."
The struggle continued, but when her motivation was on E, she counted on faith and a strong work ethic. "There's a lot of mental maintenance that goes into this---the belief that you can make it. A canvas could be maybe $50, and I'm hungry. But I thought, 'If I buy this canvas for $50, I could turn that into $500 when I sell it.' I would have to choose. There were a lot of times I'd spend my time reinvesting in my dream."
"It was hard for a long time before I started to build success and take care of myself."
One look at her work, and you see a God-given gift manifested. Her inclination and natural talent is rooted in her DNA: Her grandmother was an abstract painter and her grandfather created realism pieces. "I think I ended up with a mix between the two. The skill came from my genes for sure. Art school is expensive. I definitely had to figure it out on my own. And as with anything, if you do it every day, you get better. I'm definitely better now than when I first started."
Anderson draws inspiration from online research and everyday life, and she seeks to paint pieces that stand out from what's already available or popular. She's also built a solid online brand, particularly on Instagram, where she has more than 86,000 followers. Her art has caught the eye of many celebrities including Drake, Russell Simmons, Jason Derulo, Andre Berto, Ray J, and Floyd Mayweather, with the latter being a repeat purchaser who has spent more than a pretty penny for her massive masterpieces. Now, she's able to get tens of thousands of dollars for her work and she can pick and choose what projects she takes on.
Social media buzz may be golden, but for Anderson, verbal referrals are vital to her success. "I have a presence online, true, but the majority of the way I survive on art alone is through word of mouth, especially with celebrities. I don't have a side job. Once I sold my first painting, I never had a regular job again. For me, the key is that I don't really have a choice. I have to continue to paint. I have to make it bigger and more unique and better to survive. If I don't paint, I don't eat."
"I have to continue to paint. I have to make it bigger and more unique and better to survive. If I don't paint, I don't eat."
Anderson urges creatives to give their passions their all and to be prepared for their time to shine. "This is how I keep my network and keep working with the same celebrities over and over again: I'm not annoying, and my work is good," she says. "You don't have to kiss someone's ass or try too hard to be friends. If you work hard and your work is good, it'll make people stick to you. Every time something comes up, you're the first person to come to mind."
Another DJ Khaled-level key to sustaining success and securing the bag: Ignore the doubters and naysayers and hold tight to faith. "Everyone's gonna tell you that it's a bad idea, and that you need to get a 'real' job. So many people told me not to do it. Even now, with the success I've seen in the past three years, there are still days I wake up and say, 'Is this gonna work out?' I have to listen to my Joel Osteen and get back into the faith of all this."
With a growing fan and patron base, Anderson hopes to continue letting her work and growth Inspire other black and brown girls to get into art, and she eventually wants to launch a public studio of her own. "I would like to contribute to inspiring young people of color to let them know that they can do it, too," she says. "They don't have to follow the path the [typical] American dream provides to them. I want to let them know you can be successful. Just look at what I did. I definitely want to continue to do work with Tina Knowles and keep going forward. I want to have my own gallery. For now, it's just all these amazing opportunities that are coming in, and I just want to be prepared for them when they come."
I can dig that. After talking with Anderson, I'm super hyped to step my game up--- that way, when she reaches Basquiat status, I can be on the radar to get the coveted exclusive yet again.
For more Tiffanie, follow her and her work on Instagram.