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.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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