How Hustle & Blue Ivy Led This Painter To Her $20K Big Break


Blue Ivy had the Internet going nuts recently when a video of her bidding on artwork went viral, but another star emerged from that moment: painter Tiffanie Anderson, also known as The Pretty Artist.

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.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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