Tika Sumpter talks ‘Dark Girls’

    Like many Black women, watching Dark Girls this weekend on OWN brought up a lot of emotions for Tika Sumpter.

    The “Haves and The Have Nots” star has been a stunning presence on the screen from the moment that we first laid eyes on her. Apart from her outer appearance, she carries herself with a certain elegance and charm that captivates audiences. While some may think this qualifies her as a standout among Black women, for her, that isn’t something so out of the ordinary.

    “Both of my parents, and particularly my mother, worked very hard every day to make sure all their children had exactly what we needed to grow up with minds of our own, confidence to spare, and strength to endure,” Tika wrote in a blog on The Daily Beast. “Even after my parents separated and later divorced, I always felt worthy, supported, and loved.”

    While watching Dark Girls, Tika connected with a lot of the pain and confusion the women in the documentary felt even though she didn’t grown up with the same issues.

    “It’s important to understand that I was born into a family with seven children, each of us equipped with varying personalities, dispositions, and, yes, skin tones as well,” Tika wrote. “My mom has the most beautiful café au lait complexion, which she shares with my two older sisters and older brother. My three younger siblings have skin tones that range from caramel to a golden bronze. And then there’s me.”

    Tika’s parents loved all of their children, but the actress shared that one of her fondest childhood memories was hearing her mother speak about the pride her father felt when he first saw Tika. “My mother says that when my father, a striking man with kind eyes, broad shoulders, and deep ebony-brown skin, first saw me in the hospital that day,” she shared, “his eyes lit up brightly as he promptly proclaimed, ‘She has my color. She looks like me!'”

    Unfortunately, not everyone grew up on a constant diet of acceptance and love that helped Tika develop her own sense of self worth. That was never more apparent than when she began her run as Raina Thorpe on CW’s “Gossip Girl.” Fans of the show flooded her with letters thanking her for representing Black women in such a classy way and that they’d ever seen a woman like her on TV before.

    “[It] really meant they’d never seen anyone that looked like them before. And it got much deeper than that,” Tika recalled. “Some fans even remarked that they’d never witnessed any woman with my skin color speak the way I spoke, have a successful career the way I had on that show, or carry themselves in such a ladylike manner.”

    Tika took it another way, though, placing the origin of these praises on TV producers that don’t put more women like her on screen, stating, “In the very make-believe land of television and movies, women with darker skin aren’t smart enough to speak proper English or capable enough to be employed with a six-figure salary. And we most certainly can’t be ladylike. What complete nonsense!”

    Despite the fact that her parents nurtured her healthy self-esteem, Tika hasn’t completely escaped the reality of colorism among African-Americans. Thankfully, she only experienced these things after she had become an adult.

    “Who hasn’t heard the obligatory, ‘You’re pretty for a dark-skin girl’? Or my personal favorite, ‘I usually don’t date dark-skin women, but you’re so beautiful.’ That one really warms the heart,” Tika shared. “The most disturbing aspect of all of this is that those comments were most often made by men with exactly the same skin tone as my own.”

    Tika easily shook off the backhanded compliments thanks to her upbringing and the confidence to know that such a mentality isn’t shared by everyone. “I always knew there were far too many other people who saw my beauty and embraced every part of me with open arms to think twice about what was said,” she concluded. “It hurts me to know that so many young girls today are growing up without that same realization and reassurance.”

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