Actress Tika Sumpter, star of the upcoming film “Southside With You,” has penned a personal essay about her experience as a dark-skinned Black woman in Hollywood. She also describes how dark-skinned fans reacted to seeing themselves represented on screen in a positive light. The turning point came when she joined “Gossip Girl” in 2011 as Raina Thorpe.
“Each week I’d get tons of letters from mothers, grandmothers, and young girls literally thanking me for simply existing. They wrote me saying they’d never seen a woman that looked like me on television before, which really meant they’d never seen anyone that looked like them before. And it got much deeper than that. 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.”
Sumpter said that even though her parents later divorced, she and her six siblings always felt supported, loved and confident in their skin.
“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,” she said to Black Doctor.
The 36-year-old star of Tyler Perry’s “The Haves and Have Nots” said she was reminded of her childhood when she watched the documentary “Dark Girls,” which explores colorism and biases in African-American culture against dark-skinned women.
“My heart broke just listening to the stories of so many young girls with brown skin traumatized by the cruel and hurtful views of those around them,” Sumpter said.
Though she has heard backhanded compliments like, “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl,” Sumpter says she’s thankful for those who have embraced her beauty. But she knows not everyone is as fortunate.
“It hurts me to know that so many young girls today are growing up without that same realization and reassurance,” she said. “I also regret that so many are forced to seek their self-worth between the pages of mainstream magazines or in the background of a rap music video.”
“I’d like to think that seeing someone like me on their televisions every week gives them some hope that things are changing slowly but surely,” she adds. “Finally, every day I’m thankful that I didn’t have to endure the pain that I know so many women do on a regular basis as a result of the color of their skin. My heart goes out to them all.”
(Photo Source: AP, PR, Instagram)