Written by Carolyn Desalu
Photography by Adam Fedderly
Makeup: Anthea King; Hair Angela Stone
NEW KID ON THE BLOCK
“I’m happy to do what I love and pay my mortgage,” jokes Tika Sumpter, the newest cast member of both The Game and Gossip Girl. In the former, she plays an ex-model in rehab trying to be brave. Her Gossip Girl role, however, is quite the opposite. “My character is Raina Thorpe—a female Chuck Bass [played by Ed Westwick] who is supersmart, strong, ambitious, powerful, and a daddy’s girl.”
Raised in Queens and Long Island, Sumpter always knew she wanted to act. “In high school, I went on open casting calls [and would wait] for hours just to be told, ‘You’re not what we’re looking for,’” she says.Those days appear to be over.
Sumpter was the last actor to read for the Gossip Girl role, yet she was confident that she could play the part. “I went in without any doubts,” she says. “I read [the script] and wrote, ‘Raina Thorpe is Tika Sumpter,’ in my journal. Raina knows what she wants and that’s me.” A week later, she was hired, and the producers and directors were willing to work around her filming schedule. Sumpter also has a recurring role on One Life to Live.“My character didn’t get killed, so [you never know],” she says.
While the devious darlings of Gossip Girl are always clad in designs fresh off the most exclusive runways, Sumpter describes her personal style as Bohemian-chic. “I feel most confident when I’m comfortable,” she says. For her, that can mean donning Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera or Anthropologie and Victoria’s Secret.
Sumpter has been dating the same international ex-pro surfer for four years, but is quick to mention that “he hasn’t put a ring on it.” While she’s reluctant to elaborate about the relationship, she does share tidbits on what’s in her journal: dreams, hard days, gratitude, cries out to God, and future goals, such as doing another movie (she was in Stomp the Yard 2), becoming a series regular, producing, and mentoring young girls. “I promise to be true to myself always,” she says.