Tika Sumpter and Thai Randolph are a perfect soul sister match. We know Tika delivers stunning performances on OWN’s highest-rated series, The Haves And Have Nots, directed and produced by Tyler Perry and ABC’s hit show, Mixed-ish. Thai Randolph is an award-winning marketing, business development & operations leader who has spent her career at the intersection of content, consumers and commerce. As the EVP and GM for Laugh Out Loud network, Randolph manages day to day business strategy, operations, and P&L Management for Kevin Hart’s comedy brand and multi-platform network. And in addition to the incredible careers they have built, they are deeply committed mothers and motherhood is at the crux of their new lifestyle brand, Sugaberry. Catering to and celebrating all aspects of the brown mom experience, Sugaberry curates mix of editorial content, original audio and video programming, interviews, newsletters, live event series, thoughtful product recommendations and more. Sugaberry also features original reporting, expert parenting advice, and unfiltered stories from a collection of celebrity guest contributors and influencer ambassadors. Tika and Thai also launched The Suga Podcast on Stitcher, a weekly conversation series exploring motherhood from the perspective of notable brown moms. I have to admit, when I learned they were dropping a podcast, I rejoiced. I have been tuning in since the launch.
I had a sit virtual down with Tika and Thai for Mama Glow and for their podcast, which will debut in August, and we had the best time. Laughing, crying and lifting each other up. It was the pinnacle of black sisterhood and what it looks like to support one another in the journey of motherhood.
You both have successful careers – Tika, as an actress and producer, currently on the hit show Mixed-ish, and Thai who is EVP & GM at Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Network. And you are now co-founders of Sugaberry, a lifestyle destination you created for brown mamas. How are you making the time to do it all?
TIKA : I’m going to be honest, I have no idea! We are just putting our heads down and getting it all done. We are also surrounded by an amazing group of women who are part of the Sugaberry squad who help us execute all of the things that need to be done. But it’s a lot, but black women are worth it.
THAI: We’re both so passionate about our families and the community we’re building via Sugaberry – that passion fuels us. But sometimes, you can’t do it all. There are times when things fall through the cracks and what’s amazing about building a business with a supportive team is that when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I can tap Tika, Blaire or any of our amazing team members to chip in and pick up the slack.
You all joined forces to create Sugaberry to support brown mamas in living the joy of motherhood – you call it “the brown mama’s guide to the sweet life.” Why is Sugaberry as a destination so important in this current moment?
TIKA: Black women are always in the forefront of every movement for everybody. That’s who we are. But we also deserve care and we need time to fill ourselves back up. Sugaberry is here to provide a safe sanctuary with resources and content to indulge, delight and reinvigorate.
THAI: When you look at the statistics about Black women’s trajectory in business and commerce, you’ll see that we’re obtaining advanced degrees and starting businesses at a faster rate than many other segments of the population. However, when you look at other statistics the health disparities facing our community – as is the case with maternal mortality, and the fact that we are 3x more likely to die during childbirth than our white counterparts – you begin to realize that although we are making amazing strides, we are still severely underserved. We exist to serve and celebrate black women, particularly at this point in their life when they are becoming moms or considering motherhood. It’s a time when they require the most care and also when they are making some of the greatest investments – in products, their family and their futures. We want to be the resource for them during that journey.
What are some things that you wish your village prepared you for or told you before you became mothers?
TIKA: I wish someone told me to be easy on myself. I’ve finally come to grips with not being able to be everything to everybody and do everything. It doesn’t make me a bad person. I have to literally be filled up in order to be the best version of me for myself and my child.
THAI: I was so worried about “getting it right.” I wish someone told me that there is a whole spectrum of “right” answers.
Studies show that while black women are twice as likely as white women to be challenged with infertility, we only seek help half as often as white women do. Black women are also less likely to seek supportive networks and keep it to ourselves, often suffering in silence. Thai, you have been vocal about the lack of support you faced when you and your husband were challenged with fertility. What was it like going to your appointments, handling the emotions and trying to find community around this really delicate time in your life?
THAI: I was working for a tech company with amazing fertility benefits when a colleague encouraged me to explore freezing my eggs as “fertility insurance”. I was one of the few Black women in my office and I was first taken aback by how comfortable my White counterparts were discussing their varying paths to parenthood. Once I was on my path and received a heart-wrenching infertility diagnosis, one of the things that made it even harder was that I felt like I was going it alone. My husband was an amazing support, but in my quest to find a doctor who would treat me, and on the many mornings I spent getting blood drawn or having ultrasounds at those fertility clinics, I was often the only Black face. My friends were not talking about their paths or challenges with pregnancy. In fact, it was only after I disclosed that I was attempting IVF that one of my close friends disclosed to me that she actually conceived via IVF. I was planning her baby shower and had no idea. I realized we, as Black women, were being socialized to be so discreet about our struggles and really suffer in silence. Now, I try to be as vocal as possible about my experience. I casually mention in business meetings and social settings that I had fibroids, froze my embryos & had two failed IVF attempts. I really want to let women off the hook and normalize discussions around fertility and alternative paths to parenthood for women who look like me.
What a year it’s been – and it’s only July! What’s been the most challenging thing about raising your young children during this time of quarantine?
TIKA: Wheew. It’s crazy, I feel like I’ve been busier than ever with work. The most challenging thing has been to create office hours while making sure my child is engaged in play. I’m so grateful for my fantastic and engaged fiance Nick. Preschool on Zoom was extremely hard for us.
THAI: The most challenging thing has been the lack of community for the little one. My 2-year old is not interested in Zoom play dates.
Tika, when living through times of social unrest and a global spotlight on the movement for black lives, what are some of the conversations you are having with your husband about raising your daughter in this moment and about race?
TIKA: Nick knew when he met me that I was always one to speak up and correct someone about the social constructs and life we live in being a black woman. These conversations were always ongoing in our household. The micro and macro aggressions from outside environments that I faced before and during our relationship he now fully understands. He knows we are raising a daughter who is black. He has been educating himself and challenging/educating some of his friends. They are all having different conversations about race.
What I do know is this. He has certain freedoms and privilege passes that I would never have. He truly gets what it means to have it and knows he has a responsibility to speak up and also listen to black people when we say our house is on fire!
We are obsessed with The Suga podcast and love that you bring a down-to-earth and accessible lens on motherhood while keeping the conversation inspirational as well. What do you hope your listeners take away from each episode?
TIKA: I hope they feel cared for. I hope they feel loved and listened to. Inspired to truly live their best lives. I hope they feel let off the hook.
THAI: One listener who reviewed the podcast said they felt like they were “Wrapped in velvet” when listening. I want everyone to have that experience – they deserve it.
What do you say to the mama that doesn’t currently feel supported, doesn’t feel like she has close friends or community to rely upon, what are some ways she can find solace?
TIKA: When I feel lonely, I truly lean on God. I hope his love will push people who feel unsupported to places like The Suga or Sugaberry.com or any other community online where they feel seen and heard. That’s all mama’s really want is to be acknowledged. We don’t ask for the world but we should.
THAI: Yes, I hope we can be a resource for those moms who feel alone – and we all feel that way at times. I want Black moms to feel seen and celebrated.
We stress the importance of self-care as a practice for wellness and self-preservation. What do your individual self-care practices consist of?
THAI: My husband knows I need my alone time. I LOVE my baby and my man, but mama needs a break sometimes. I had my son at 36, I spent a lot of time with my own thoughts before then. Having an evening to myself to read a book, listen to music, or even watch reality TV is important for me and I let my family know that.
Who do you turn to when you feel challenged? Who mothers you through the tough moments?
TIKA: MY mother mothers me. My girlfriends like Thai. I love her so much. She’s not just my business partner. She’s become my sister.
THAI: Same! I appreciated my mom on a different level once I became a mom. I also called my girlfriends who were moms and apologized for all the times I judged them for not texting or calling back. And Tika is indeed my sister. I can’t stress how important it is to have a relationship like the one we have where you can disclose any of your struggles or insecurities about parenting or anything and not be judged.
Black motherhood has often been devoid of celebration, how do we reclaim that celebration and lean into joy?
TIKA: We do it by just doing it. We don’t need anyone’s permission. It’s ours to enjoy and claim.
THAI: Yes, the two things we want every visitor to Sugabery.com or listener to The Suga to walk away knowing is that 1. You are loved. 2. You are deserving.
What’s your mantra for black motherhood?
THAI: Man, I feel like it depends on the day. At this moment it’s “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
THAI: This line from Ntozake Shange has been sticking with me: “I found god in myself and I loved her, I loved her fiercely.”
Anything else you want to share?
TIKA: THANK YOU for what you do. I love this sisterhood.
THAI: We appreciate the work you are doing and thanks for acknowledging the work we’re doing. You’re an inspiration to us.
Tika Sumpter is an accomplished actor and producer, quickly establishing herself as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after multihyphenates. Tika stars on top-rated ABC comedy series MIXED-ISH, the heartfelt spinoff of BLACK-ISH, where she plays “Alicia Johnson” opposite Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Gary Cole. Tika’s latest endeavor is Sugaberry , a lifestyle brand by and for modern moms of color she co-founded with Thai Randolph, after being frustrated with the lack of resources available for brown mamas during her own pregnancy. Tika’s recent acting credits include: Paramount Pictures’ SONIC THE HEDGEHOG and OWN’s highest-rated series, THE HAVES AND HAVE NOTS, directed and produced by Tyler Perry. In 2016, Sumpter received critical praise for her “spot-on performance” (Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter) as a young Michelle Obama in Miramax’s feature film SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU, which Sumpter co-produced with John Legend. The film, inspired by Barack and Michelle Obama’s first summer date, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival that year to a standing ovation and went on to receive rave reviews. Follow her on Instagram
Thai Randolph is an award-winning marketing, business development & operations leader who has spent her career at the intersection of content, consumers and commerce. Randolph has a proven track-record of developing brands, audience and revenue for some of the biggest names in advertising, technology and entertainment – including WPP, Publicis, Sony, Facebook, and Kevin Hart. In 2018, Randolph was named to AdAge’s 40 Under 40 list and Cynopsis’ It List. This year, Randolph was named one of Multichannel News’ Wonder Women in Streaming “Women to Watch.” As the EVP and GM for Laugh Out Loud network, Randolph manages day to day business strategy, operations, and P&L Management for Kevin Hart’s comedy brand and multi-platform network. Previously, in her role as SVP, Marketing & Monetization for Laugh Out Loud, Randolph oversaw audience development, brand strategy and ad sales for the network – working with advertisers such as Lyft and P&G on brand-supported content series including Kevin Hart: Lyft legend and Cold As Balls – which collectively reached more than 225MM views, multiple Streamy and Cynopsis Model D nominations and a Streamy win for Lyft Legend as best Branded Content Series. Follow her on Instagram.