By Jesse Kadjo
This week I read the ultimate throwback piece by Allison Davis for The Cut. She wrote about an exhibit in Manhattan, dedicated to none other than Tiffany Pollard, aka “New York”, from such early aught greats as Flavor of Love, and of course two seasons of I Love New York. Pollard has gone on to star in a barrage of other reality shows, but none as iconic as her first season on Flavor of Love. Like many millennials my age (30), I spent my first years of independence consuming the absolute ridiculousness of VH1. Right when people were fully in “I wish MTV still played videos” mode, VH1 decided that it would launch us into a new era. Throwback shows declaring how much we loved the 80s and 90s, and reality shows about searching for love.
Flavor of Love was unique because it was the anti-Bachelor. With a similar premise, on its face, it seemed the same, but was far from it. The characters were so much better and knew that they were just that – characters. There was no pretending that you actually gave a shit about this person. They were there for fame and money. Contestants often touted that they were on other reality shows, only to renege on those statements when questioned about their “love for Flav”.
A Star Is Born
New York (as she will forever be in my heart), was the real star, because, despite her pursuit for that coin, you felt as though she really did have love for Flav. New York tells Davis, “ ‘Everything I did was real, everything I do is real’ […] ‘And if you wanna know, yes, I did fuck Flav.’” I mean…come on! You can’t make that up. Well you could…but that’s what makes her Reality Gold. She was raw, cutting, hilarious and even kind. She had a singular focus which was winning (his heart) and getting a prized Flav clock. The fact that a clock on a chain was given out in lieu of a rose just made the whole thing even better.
It all feels manufactured now, which is ironic because it obviously was back then. At the time New York auditioned for the show, she didn’t even know who she would be dating. But there was an authenticity to it, because it still felt new. These days you’d be hard pressed to find something quite like this. Turn on the last season of Keeping up with the Kardashians and you will know what I mean. Each episode has about three story lines, all of them boring, and follow the overarching meta plot about their job of filming their reality show. When your reality show has a cast of 8 and yet has devolved into eating salads and sitting in your kitchen, you know you’ve jumped the shark.
These days, New York continues to breathe a second, third and 16th life into her 15 minutes of fame. She jokes that “she must be related to the Energizer bunny, with a rechargeable 15 minutes of fame,” Davis writes. Like many stars of the early 2000s, she has found new life on the internet through the magic and genius of GIFs. One of my all-time favorite GIFs is also her favorite of herself. Pulled from Season 1, she is sitting on a bed in in a white tank top, jeans and stiletto boots. Her sunglasses and chilled stare are the perfect visualization for me when I am done with EVERYONE.In some way, everything old feels new. I get to relieve one of the best periods of my life (college) in an ever evolving and hilarious way.
Nostalgia Is The Best
Those college days, especially the first two years, were so carefree and involved so much buffoonery. My roommate and I went to class, were back in our shoebox by 2pm and spent the afternoon watching the Nanny and Golden Girls. By sophomore year, we graduated to VH1 and binging on Haagen Das. It was the perfect use of our time. Now we call it Netflix and Chill and barely have time to do it. No matter the decade, it’s clear that we need lightness. Back then, New York was an antidote to the pressures of senior year and impending graduation. Now she’s an antidote to the pressures of being a real life adult with adult problems.
We need things that take little to no brain cells to consume. I think it is just as important as meditation. For me, it keeps me going, and in many ways, builds community with everyone else who is watching the madness. I loved New York, for everything she was and wasn’t: crazy, fun, and unapologetically herself. These days, I still have love for New York. She has changed and evolved but remains very much aware of what has gotten her here. She may have been cast as the punchline, but was always in on the joke.
Jesse Kadjo is an activist and writer living in Oakland, CA. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @jessekadjo or at her blog thechocolatemousse.com where she shares recipes and food inspiration.