How to build your brand, according to reality TV icon and influencer Tiffany 'New York' Pollard

"Make sure you're being real. Make sure you're being authentic, because people are connecting with you."

Tiffany "New York" Pollard attends the world premiere of "RuPaul's Drag Race Live!" at Flamingo Las Vegas on January 30, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Gabe Ginsberg | FilmMagic | Getty Images

Even if Tiffany "New York" Pollard's name doesn't ring a bell, chances are she's regularly popped up on your pop culture radar. If you were watching reality TV in the mid-2000s, you may remember her as the feistiest contestant on VH1's dating show "Flavor of Love" or as the object of competing affections on her spin-off, "I Love New York."

In the years since, Pollard has appeared on several other reality TV shows but has more likely found her way to your timeline in the form of memes, which remain popular on the internet over a decade and a half after her first TV appearance in 2006. "Tiffany's catchphrases, featured GIFs, and images have become universally present wherever internet users seek to convey humor, disbelief, or pretty much any other emotion," wrote one Vice columnist in 2020.

Whether you know her because you've seen the iconic image of her sitting dejectedly on a bed, or because you're one of her 950,000 Instagram followers, for her part Pollard has remained relevant through a canny understanding of personal brand-building, expanding what could have been her 15 minutes into a lucrative, full-time career as a reality star, influencer, and entertainer.

Grow caught up with Pollard following the launch of HBIC Ink, a line of nail polishes named for the acronym she popularized and available through Orca, to chat about how to build a brand, what it was like for her to find fame, her best wealth-building and money advice, and her post-reality TV career.

This as-told-to interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

How to build a brand: 'The real me was going to show'

Well, when I first got cast for "Flavor of Love," the opportunity literally landed in my lap. I was literally walking down Hollywood Boulevard — I didn't even know that this was going to be a potential lifestyle choice for myself. And so once I got into it, I just kept telling myself, "Keep going with it. Make sure you're being real. Make sure you're being authentic, because people are connecting with you. And what they are connecting with is the fact that you're being yourself in every single moment."

So I think if you're gonna build your brand, you really have to know what you want and know who you are. And just trust that to be enough.

'Always be smart' about money: 'Put some of it away'

It felt good to be able to have larger sums of money. Before I got discovered, I was a buyer for a clothing store, so I was used to getting paid biweekly, and it was enough money to have a little bit of fun, but not travel the world, if you will.

My grandmother had always instilled in me to spend some of your money but also save some. So I've always been smart, always looking ahead to the future and knowing it's so important to have fun with your coin, but at the same time put some of it away.

Always put up a nest egg, always be smart. There's seed time and there's harvest. I think that's really the thing I want to drive home to everybody: Always make sure you put a little something away. It can never hurt.

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Her ultimate career goal? Televangelism

The end goal for me is to be — oh, my goodness, I have to say it — a televangelist. Like, that is my heart. I just see myself stepping out in a huge arena and just talking about love and spreading everything that I know spiritually.

And it has to be based in love, I can't force that enough. If I don't have love in my heart and I'm not spreading that message, deny me access to you. But if I'm coming in straight genuine love and encouragement and then like, oh my goodness, let me into your living room, people!

The purchase she regrets most: 'A lot of jewelry'

[There's] a lot of jewelry that I no longer wear or can't find. Oh my goodness, buying real diamond earrings is not the move unless you're gonna leave them in your ears overnight. Because you're gonna put them on the nightstand and somebody's gonna swipe them or you're going to swipe them down and lose them.

So, a lot of jewelry.

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On relationships and money: 'You can't be bashful'

I feel like getting it all out in the open is so important. You can't be bashful about that kind of thing. You want to be honest about what you bring to the table financially.

And also, it's OK to kind of nudge that person to tell you what they have, or what they're getting ready to accumulate financially. So that way, you're not going to fight about money in your relationship. You don't want to do that.

Know what's happening straight from the jump.

Her advice for young folks: Skip the Prada for now

For all my young ears that are out there listening and paying attention, do not feel impressed to buy designer immediately. Work yourself up to that, you can have a beautiful bag for $100 or $50. You don't have to spend $5,000 yet.

Now, if you get there eventually or you get there one day in your life, you can increase and have those types of things. But I feel like right now, there's a huge pressure on a lot of the youth to have certain designer items that they know they shouldn't have yet. You know, let's get those priorities straight.

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