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Tika Sumpter on Being Dark Skinned and

 
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    Posted: Jun 23 2013 at 5:00pm
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LORI22
4:35 pm - 06/23/2013
Tika Sumpter Writes About Her Dark Skin & Being An Inspirational Image for Dark Girls
Dark Girls: OWN Documentary Spotlights Skin Color
by Tika Sumpter

A new documentary on skin color airs this weekend. TV and film star Tika Sumpter on the film, her own dark skin, and breaking the color barrier, shade by shade.

Tika Sumpter doesn’t consider herself a rarity in Hollywood even if many of her fans do. Sumpter has spent the last 10 years building an impressive resume that includes starring roles on popular television shows such as Gossip Girl, The Game, The Have and the Have Nots, which airs on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. This winter she’ll also star in Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas.

But while it’s undoubtedly Sumpter’s acting chops that keep her regularly employed, some would argue that her mile-high cheekbones, alluring smile and striking ebony complexion also have something to do with it. In an industry that often fails to celebrate or recognize women who don’t fit the traditional ideal of beauty, Sumpter has managed to rise above the stereotypes and preconceived notions of just who is considered attractive and why. Sumpter shared with The Daily Beast her thoughts on the new documentary Dark Girls, set to air this Sunday on OWN at 10 p.m, and her hopes for a new generation of young brown women struggling just to feel “good enough.”

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One of my favorite childhood memories is of listening to my mother describe the look on my father’s face the day I was born. Whenever my mother shares this story, she somehow manages to recreate it with images so vivid I can simply close my eyes and feel as if I were still there cuddled in her arms.

It’s important to understand that I was born into a family with seven children. Each one of us equipped with varying personalities, dispositions and, yes, varying skin tones as well. My mom has the most beautiful cafe au lait complexion that 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.

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, his eyes lit up brightly as he promptly proclaimed, “She has my color, she looks like me!”

Though I obviously have no recollection of that day at all, I’m quite certain that hearing that story heavily influenced the ways in which I’ve been able to navigate my journey as a woman, an African-American woman and a woman of a darker hue.

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

I was recently reminded of my childhood as I watched the amazing documentary Dark Girls. 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. I experienced that same emotion when I began my role as Raina Thorpe on the popular CW show Gossip Girl a few years back. I was truly unprepared for the tremendous impact I’d have while on that show. Each week I’d get the 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 lady-like manner. Translation: 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 lady-like. What complete nonsense!

Legends such as Cicely Tyson and Beah Richards were well before my time, so I didn’t see women like me on television as a kid either. Still, I never felt discouraged by that reality and I certainly never believed I couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to follow my dreams as a result. Following my dreams allowed me to become the first African-American cheerleader at Longwood Senior High School in Middle Island, New York and president of my class three years in a row.

Of course I did experienced my share of hurtful reactions to my skin color, but thankfully only after I was 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. But in reality, the most disturbing aspect of all of this is the fact that those comments were most often made by men with exactly the same skin tone as my own.

Still, 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. It hurts me to know that so many young girls today are growing up without that same realization and reassurance. I also regret that so many are forced to seek their self-worth in 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. 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. And everyday, I’m even more thankful for a mother who was always there for me, and a father (now deceased) whose first reaction to me on the day I was born paved my path to real self-love.

Source: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/06/23/dark-girls-own-documentary-spotlights-skin-color.html



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ModelessDiva View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote ModelessDiva Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 23 2013 at 5:03pm
(not directed at you OP)
 
but how many documentaries does it take?Pinch
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (7) Thanks(7)   Quote Printer_Ink Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 23 2013 at 5:09pm
Wow in this day in age ... people are still talking about the skin tone of their kids,
 
Geesh, I'm dark skinned and I was born ... a lonnnng time ago  and I don't need a dark skinned girl to be an 'inspiration' for me. Confused Why, because I wasn't raised with all that crap either in the home or in school.
 
I think black families are their own worse enimies in terms of this color struck thing and punishing their own kids so they are ... even as adults still trying to get over it. Shocked Wow!
 
When will it ever end?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote CamiK Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 23 2013 at 5:09pm
Originally posted by ModelessDiva ModelessDiva wrote:

(not directed at you OP)
 
but how many documentaries does it take?Pinch
 
 
forreal doe...


Edited by CamiK - Jun 23 2013 at 5:09pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (21) Thanks(21)   Quote Ladycoils Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 23 2013 at 5:11pm
Its going to take alot of documentaries.
 
We live in a society in which no matter what ethnic background you come from" NO one wants to be black or dark"
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote ModelessDiva Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 23 2013 at 5:15pm
it doesn't take all this
 
making all these documentaries makes the issue even bigger than it already is
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (5) Thanks(5)   Quote nekamarie83 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 23 2013 at 5:16pm
Originally posted by Ladycoils Ladycoils wrote:

Its going to take alot of documentaries.
 
We live in a society in which no matter what ethnic background you come from" NO one wants to be black or dark"
 
 
this. we're not the only people with ls/ds issues. we are merely poster children. 

in any event, i liked reading it. and good that she knows the positive impact she has on people. i'm sure it's a great feeling.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote ModelessDiva Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 23 2013 at 5:17pm
Originally posted by Ladycoils Ladycoils wrote:

Its going to take alot of documentaries.
 
We live in a society in which no matter what ethnic background you come from" NO one wants to be black or dark"
 
 
 
 what exactly are documentaries supposed to do?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (7) Thanks(7)   Quote JoliePoufiasse Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 23 2013 at 5:19pm
Originally posted by ModelessDiva ModelessDiva wrote:

it doesn't take all this
 
making all these documentaries makes the issue even bigger than it already is
 
 
 
I disagree with you on this one. It's like people who say that talking about racism exacerbates it. The problem is real and it's not a documentary or two that's gonna make it go away or make it worse. To some extent, I do feel some kind of way about this type of internal discussion being accessible to everyone, though. I'm still upset with Chris Rock for "Good hair".
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote Gkisses Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun 23 2013 at 5:26pm
This is a topic ill never understand....love of ur skin and culture starts at home and its important to start it early. Ive never heard a d/s fam member or friend voice these experiences .....but i dont doubt they exist.....it just seems strange.
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