Tiffani Rose Peak has always had an interesting relationship with luck.
Although she was born to poverty in one of the toughest cities in the nation and lost her mother at 16, the Detroit native has mostly managed to cheat most worst-case scenarios. Only the devout Christian doesn’t believe much in superstition…just favor. Her life is a testament to that.
As a child, Peak thought her next-door neighbor Nalisa was the most glamorous girl in the world. She was always dressed to the nines, donned a fresh coif, and drove the nicest cars. This was a stark juxtaposition to the tough Detroit neighborhood surroundings they’d grown up in, making the woman’s pristine appearance even more striking. Peak wanted to be just like her.
Over time, this admiration turned into deep motivation for what Peak aspired to have: lots of money.
After her mother’s untimely passing from breast cancer in 1993, Peak grew close to her neighbors and gained a surrogate family who tried to provide structure to the impressionable teen’s life. They encouraged her to get a job, and ever the fashion lover, Peak secured one working in retail when she turned 17. Having just birthed her first child, Peak was grateful for the steady paycheck, but the new position unknowingly set her on a dangerous path that changed the trajectory of her life forever.
“I got a job working at Contempo Casuals in the mall and I was really excited, but I knew it wouldn’t be the last stop for me,” Peak told ESSENCE. “I wanted more.”
In 1994 while working a shift, Peak was ringing up a friend’s clothing purchases and unconsciously put unpaid items in her bag. After the friend realized what happened later, she asked Peak if she could do it again, but this time, on purpose.
What started as an honest mistake turned into a gateway for Peak to live the glamorous life she’s always dreamed, all on someone else’s dime.
“It was like an adrenaline rush,” she explained. Peak initially only helped her friends get extra clothing at a fraction of the price. But after getting away with it for months Peak did it more often, eventually leading to her firing. However, word had already spread about her skills and before long, she’d built a shoplifting routine.
“I was making thousands doing it for myself and other people,” Peak told ESSENCE. “I couldn’t believe how easy it was.”
Since this was all happening in the early 90s, it wasn’t yet commonplace for department stores to have sophisticated security camera systems, so the ruse was easy to carry out.
By 2000, Peak was stealing and returning upwards of $40,000 worth of merchandise per week by utilizing baby and wedding registry schemes. She then implemented receipt fraud, in which Peak would manipulate cash totals and get the money back for stolen items she’d taken back to the store. After eight years of this activity, she’d raked in more than a million dollars and was taking care of her entire family.
Little did she know, the authorities had been watching Peak for a year and arrested her on retail theft and forgery charges. She was sentenced to two years in prison.
“I was devastated to be going to jail but the crazy thing is, I knew it was going to be really hard to stop. It was a part of me at that point,” she told ESSENCE. “It was habitual and pathological—really an addiction.”
After being released in 2010, the lavish lifestyle she’d built was desecrated and although she promised to leave her criminal behavior behind, Peak felt like she was forced to steal again to keep her family afloat. But, again, she was caught and this time she was facing a 15-year maximum bid. However, due to jail overcrowding, a compassionate judge and a great lawyer, she was sentenced to just 10 months of work release.
“I really, truly needed a miracle and I got it. I felt so fortunate because what were the odds of it playing out like that?”
Unfortunately, that relief was short-lived because not long after coming home, Peak was diagnosed with stage 3b breast cancer. While fighting for her life, she also decided to change it for good.
“I started my online boutique The House Of Rose Collection in 2014 because I needed to make an important shift and I knew, under no circumstances could I EVER steal again.” She was able to secure inventory for her fashion brand by visiting LA-based wholesale vendor locations and pre-selling the affordable items to customers. While building the brand, she beat cancer and officially went into remission that same year. Less than 7 out of 10 women diagnosed with late-stage cancer can say the same.
Just a few years later, she’s now pulling in more than $500,000 in sales, largely due to her loyal social media following and engaging online personality, including complete transparency about her criminal past.
When asked about any regrets on her journey, Peak took a beat, and tearfully said ‘I truly have none.’
She continued: “I always get so emotional thinking about that question because I have no business living regret-free the way I do, but every bad choice made me stronger. And the blessed life I live now is proof that God sees me trying. So, no, I don’t regret anything. Nothing at all.”