Bride-to-Be Tika Sumpter Shares Her #1 Wedding-Planning Tip
Bride-to-Be Tika Sumpter Shares Her #1 Wedding-Planning Tip
exclusive

Bride-to-Be Tika Sumpter Shares Her #1 Wedding-Planning Tip

During the span of my 25-minute call with Tika Sumpter, it’s made abundantly clear that joy is a consistent theme in the multi-hyphenate’s life. From the stories she chooses to tell in front of and behind the camera as an actress, writer, and producer to the inspiring community she has created with her audio-first media company, Sugaberry, to her role as a mother, Sumpter is actively working to change the typical “doom-and-gloom” narrative and prioritize the joyful moments of the Black female experience. It’s just one of the many reasons hers is a career worth following. 

Sumpter’s energy is infectious even behind our respective Zoom screens. Truth be told, it’s a particularly exciting time for the 41-year-old. The second film in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, in which she plays Dr. Maddie Wachowski, broke new box-office records earlier this month, a moment she can gleefully share with her Sonic-obsessed 5-year-old daughter. She is in the midst of the sixth season of her award-winning podcast, The Suga, in which she and co-host Thai Randolph are fostering a growing community of Black women focused on putting their health and desires first. Later this spring, she will tie the knot with her fiancé, Nicholas James, in a destination wedding. And if that’s not enough, she is currently working on a handful of projects that will hopefully (fingers crossed!) be revealed soon. Sumpter is busy, to put it mildly, seamlessly shifting from one career hat to another like the true industry force she is. 

Ahead, I talk to Sumpter about fighting for a more well-rounded role in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the rewarding moments that have made the challenges of building a media company worth it, and her sage advice for brides and wedding guests. 

Tika Sumpter Talks Sonic the Hedgehog and Her Media Company

Photo:

Tayo Kuku

Let’s talk about your film Sonic the Hedgehog. There are two films in the franchise, and both have broken opening-weekend records for a video game adaptation. What made you want to be a part of this project early on?

It’s crazy because it’s rare you get to be part of a franchise, but it’s rarer that you get to be part of something that you grew up playing or watching my brother play. I was so intrigued by [video games]. I loved Super Mario Bros. I loved Sonic. And whenever I could get my hands on the controller, I would be excited to do it. So it’s just surreal. It’s exciting that people want you to be a part of something that has huge IP. 

What can we expect from your character, Maddie, in this second film?

I was super excited when they started talking about [a second film]. … And I kind of whispered, “Hey, guys. Don’t make me pregnant, please, and don’t make me on the phone the whole time.” And they actually listened, and they gave me something to do, gave me agency, and gave me action. It was a lot of fun. And also [Maddie’s] sister Rachel, who is played by Natasha Rothwell, we just got to do more and take part in doing the saving rather than being saved or just bystanders. 

The Sonic franchise speaks to multiple generations but particularly a younger audience. Now that you are a mom, do you find yourself gravitating more toward projects your daughter can watch?

Obviously, I still want to do things that are not necessarily rated PG, but what’s exciting is how excited my daughter was when she saw the first one at 3 and now at 5. I mean, she has Sonic covers on her bed right now, Sonic dolls, a backpack—she’s obsessed. She probably knows more about Sonic and the whole team than I do. She plays the video games. It’s so fun that my daughter can actually understand what I do and be a part of it rather than like, “When you get older, you’ll understand.” It’s so exciting for her to be in the theater with me and to be just as excited and tell all of her friends, and then all of her friends saw it and are like, “I love you.” It’s so sweet. I’m just glad that I can do something that my daughter can watch.

Tika Sumpter Talks Sonic the Hedgehog and Her Media Company

Photo:

Tayo Kuku

Between acting, writing, producing, and being a mom, you are very busy. But if that weren’t enough, you also have your audio-first media company, Sugaberry, that you founded with Thai Randolph and your podcast, The Suga. Let’s talk about Sugaberry first. It’s the only audio-first media company for and by Black women. How did it come about?

I mean, the idea was very simple. I was pregnant with my daughter, and at the time, when I looked up motherhood and I saw Black mothers and then everybody else, it felt like Black mothers were just looked at with death, doom, and destruction. It just felt like there was no joy in it, and I was like, “Wait a second. I have friends who are pregnant and happy, and there are joyful things as well as hard things to talk about.” And I wanted to change the narrative of what it looks like for Black motherhood. We launched during the pandemic, which was not planned, but our podcast was the lowest barrier of entry, and we wanted to be able to have all kinds of conversations across the board with all different people and [talk about] things that weren’t necessarily being talked about within our community. And so I got together with my partner, Thai Randolph, who is actually the co-president of Kevin Hart’s company Laugh Out Loud Media, and I asked her if she wanted to collaborate, and she was like, “Oh my god, I would love to be a partner on this.” So we started the podcast, and we’re here in our sixth season now and super grateful of the feedback we’re getting, and we’re growing. We always say you don’t have to be a mom to be in the club. We talk about womanhood and being who we are. We’re not just mothers attached to our kids—we’re fully formed women. So it’s about that. 

Where did the name Sugaberry come from? 

I just wanted something that felt sweet. The sound is pleasing to the ear. You know Tupac said, “The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice,” and so Sugaberry, it just sounds like something you want to be a part of. The suga is just that. Growing up, my great-grandma used to say, “Give me some suga,” which was like a kiss. And we always say on our podcast, “We don’t sip tea. We share suga.” 

What has surprised you most about the community you’ve built with Sugaberry?

That there was and is a hunger for conversations about IVF and miscarriage, but also “How do I talk to my kid about sexuality?” and “What about me? I give everything to my child, but what about me and my care?” We talk to doctors. We talk to psychologists. We talk to other celebrities. … Sometimes, you think, “Oh, they have everything easy,” but they’ve gone through a lot. Just across the spectrum, we talk to everybody who has a story. We read our Apple reviews, and they are like, “Please keep going because I was in postpartum, and this not only brought me joy but brought me validation that I’m going to be okay.” And so every time we read stuff like that, no matter how hard it gets building this business, we have to keep going because we know it’s reaching somebody.  

That has to be so rewarding.

It definitely is. It sometimes makes us tear up because we read them on the show. You have your life walking into a podcast, like I just literally yelled at my child, I got in a fight with my fiancé, and you are walking in, and then it’s like, “Okay, let’s do this thing.” And then you read something like that, and it’s like, “Holy cow. Okay, let me get myself together and be honest about what’s going on in my life.” [This community] gives me the courage to be vulnerable; they really do. I feel like my story and other people’s stories help validate their stories and allow them to be more vulnerable. I was really weird about starting a podcast. I was like, “Oh god. I don’t want to talk about my business.” That’s not me. I’m an actress. I come from a school of mystery, that whole thing. You didn’t see people sharing like that, so this is even new for me, but it made me believe in the power of being vulnerable. 

From Sugaberry came the podcast The Suga, which is centered on Black motherhood. As a mom yourself, what have been some of the most important topics or things that have been shared on the podcast? 

Oh my god. We’ve done like 70 podcasts, so let me think which one. There was this one with a doctor, and she was talking about fertility. Sometimes, as women, we think we can do everything, and we can have a kid, and we can do this. We always say you can do everything, but you can’t do it all at once. And I decided later in life to have a child and so did my co-partner [Thai Randolph], and she talked about the fertility issues that she had. You spend so much of your time trying not to get pregnant in life, and we thought of ourselves as careerists and all of these things, so when it did become hard to do, it was like, wait, what is this? This doctor came on, and she said there are different paths to motherhood. It’s not just one way. There are many ways to get there. And mothering doesn’t just mean having a child. Just the way and the care that she was talking about motherhood, it was so beautiful that it encompassed everybody’s walks of life. You didn’t even have to be a mom. You might have a niece or a cousin or somebody else who you are taking care of, and the way she was communicating what mothering is just made our hearts melt, and we were crying on that episode. I just love the way we take care of each other on our podcast. 

You are tying the knot this spring, and since wedding season is upon us, I would love to get your tips and tricks. First, what has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned planning your wedding?

Well, I’m not planning it myself. I do have a wedding planner—full disclosure—which is very helpful because I would be a hot mess. I am one of those people. If your house is empty, I’m like, let’s just go buy some furniture; it doesn’t matter what size it is. My fiancé is the one who is like, “Tika, let’s measure things.” So if it wasn’t for [my wedding planner], I would be like pink over there, white over there, yep, sure, looks great. I think for me, now that I have to make choices and there are some bits of details I have to do, I just say one thing at a time. You can’t do it all at once. I’m a list girl, and I need to write it out, and I need to cross stuff off. So I think write a list, give yourself a date of when you want these things done, and just take one thing at a time because when you look at the whole platter, it’s hard and feels overwhelming. 

What advice would you give brides looking to do a destination wedding like you’re doing?

The lovely part of that is everyone can’t travel unfortunately, so it’s going to get smaller. A tip for destination weddings is to get somebody who knows the place. I really believe you need somebody there to take care of the logistics. But the exciting part about a destination wedding is once you are there, there’s nothing else you can do. You are done planning. There’s no “Oh god. Uncle Jack is whatever.” You just have to let it go. 

What about wedding guests? Do you have any fashion dos or don’ts?

You know, I’m such a laid-back girl. Just be respectful. No jean shorts or flip-flops unless that’s the type of wedding it is. You know what the location is. Try to be respectful of that.

Tika Sumpter Talks Sonic the Hedgehog and Her Media Company

Photo:

Tayo Kuku

It’s been a busy start to the year, but let’s talk about what’s next for you. 

I have some things that haven’t been announced yet, but over the pandemic, I’ve been able to sell some films and also a TV series that I am producing and helped co-create that is being written right now. I can’t really say what those are right now, but let’s just say I’m excited. I’ve been producing for a minute, so I’m just glad that hopefully the world will get to see the amazing things that I’ve been working on. Everything takes time in this industry. Nothing is super fast, so that can be frustrating. But it’s all in the works. There are a lot of good things happening. I’m definitely a multi-hyphenate, and I’m excited for people to see [what I’ve been working on]. 

I’m curious. Between acting, producing, and writing, which part of the business do you find the most challenging?

They are all hard in different ways. Producing is tough because it’s like rolling a large boulder up a mountain. And if one piece chips, it can go that way, or it can go this way. There are so many moving parts that if one piece falls apart, it all falls apart or not. And it just takes time. It takes time for everyone to be on the same page, for everyone to be excited about the thing, for you to pitch it, for everyone to be like, Yes, let’s buy it. Honestly, I didn’t know how to pitch. I just pitched from passion and what I think the show is and the structure and all that stuff. People ask, “Well, how do you pitch?” And I can’t really tell you. I just have to be excited about the story in order to talk about it. So I think producing, in that aspect, is hard because it takes a ton of different people, and there are just a lot of moving parts. 

Writing, I don’t know. I’ve co-written something, and that’s hard because you are putting all of these thoughts on paper and hope that they function correctly and make sense. You are constantly questioning yourself. And then for acting, you don’t have to do any of the back end. You just show up, but sometimes, it’s like, are you the right person for the part? And it’s nothing personal if you are not. So it just depends on where you are in your career. 

You say you have to be really excited about the story in order to pitch it. What are the stories that really excite you right now?

I’m super excited about my mom’s story. She was a single mom in Queens and raised her five kids on her own. I always feel like you never see the coming-of-age story of a single mom without it being like, oh, that’s so sad. We had so many funny times, but it was also tough. It’s a show that mixes those two, a dramedy, but a fun coming-of-age for the mom, coming-of-age for the daughters’ story set in Queens. My mom was a stay-at-home mom for 13 years, had to be thrown back into the workforce because my dad and her split up, became a secretary and was making $13,000 a year raising five kids, and then became a corrections officer at Rikers Island and had to put bricks in her clothes to pass a certain weight test. Her story is so phenomenal and so inspirational, and that’s the kind of thing I pitched and actually sold. They always say write from your life, and people will feel it, and that’s what I do. I write from my life but also things that I’m super passionate about. It’s all about things I see missing in the marketplace and then putting the passion in there. So those are the things that I’m excited about.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is now playing in theaters

Photographer: Tayo Kuku

Stylist: Zerina Akers

Hairstylist: Kee

Makeup Artist: Kristene Bernard

Related Stories