Typically, we fall in love with actors through the characters they portray; we find a connection to them through their stories. Not with Tika Sumpter. All it takes is one look and she’s got you. You immediately understand who Sumpter is—a melanin-rich performer who’s conquering a world that too often says her type of beauty isn’t enough.

“If I saw little Tika now, I’d just want to say, ‘It’s okay to be awkward,’” Sumpter reflects. “Honestly, I didn’t think I was the prettiest girl in high school. I thought I was cute, but I knew I had other things to offer the world.” With the world now eagerly accepting what she so richly offers, Sumpter continues to feed our need for her gifts.

The more experiences you go through, the more confidence, the more love you gain for yourself. And you become even more grateful for the world.”

She currently stars as Alicia Johnson on ABC’s mixed-ish, on which she plays the mother of three biracial children. Sumpter is the mother of a biracial daughter herself, which gives her nuanced portrayal of Johnson an even deeper resonance.

“I want to be an example to other Black women especially,” she explains. “I’m touched when they come up to me and say, ‘I see myself in you.’ That means the world to me. I think it’s really important that I’m an example. I want my daughter to be proud. I want her to recognize that all things are beautiful and that all hair textures are beautiful. I want her to understand that she has a dark-skinned mama who wants her to love every single flavor we are and to appreciate our huge array of colors.”

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