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Tika Sumpter & Thai Randolph's Sugaberry Invites Moms To Indulge In Motherhood

Tika and Thai have created a safe space for moms of color to celebrate multi-faceted motherhood.

BOSS UP

There's no shortage of online content for moms. Mommy blogs, Facebook groups, and Instagram accounts offer everything from all-natural baby food recipes and recommendations for must-have strollers to the latest toddler fashion and nursery decor ideas.

But despite this flood of content, there's been a drought of representation for moms of color. When they are centered, the conversation tends to focus exclusively on heavier subjects like maternal mortality rates and raising children of color in a racist society, leaving little room for black and brown women to explore the joys of motherhood.

Courtesy of Tika Sumpter

It's a gap that actress Tika Sumpter encountered when she was pregnant with her three-year-old daughter, Ella and searching for content that spoke to her experiences and interests as a Black mom-to-be.

"There are a million websites on motherhood, and we were barely there," Sumpter recalled.

Sumpter knew she wasn't alone, and she was determined to fill the gap. So, she approached her friend, Thai Randolph with the idea for a platform that would offer moms of color a space to celebrate all the parts of motherhood.

Courtesy of Thai Randolph

Randolph, who serves as Executive Vice President of Kevin Hart's Laugh Out Loud Network, knew Sumpter had struck gold. Not just because of her expertise in marketing and content, but because she too had struggled to find content that supported her through her own journey into motherhood.

"Historically, Black women have not been depicted as vessels deserving of care. We're seen in a caretaker's context," Randolph noted. "The idea that there should be indulgent self-care afforded us…that is a foreign concept to so many people."

So, together, Sumpter and Randolph created a space for that indulgence with Sugaberry. They launched the lifestyle brand in March, curating a range of content that treats moms of color to advice, product recommendations, and tools that help them take care of themselves and their little ones, inside and out.

Courtesy of Sugaberry

But Sugaberry's sweet content doesn't mean they shy away from tough topics or difficult conversations. Instead, they give women permission to keep it all the way real through the good and the bad.

"When I say indulgence, I don't just mean that everything's great and dandy all the time. Indulgence is saying you have permission to speak and not be judged here. And to have all the information possible, including the joys," Sumpter explained.

The Suga, Sugaberry's weekly podcast hosted by Sumpter and Randolph, has been a space for some of Sugaberry's most candid conversations. They've chatted with Kelly Rowland about the challenge of accepting your post-baby body; discussed the difficult emotions that can come with not having children with Vivica A. Fox; and talked to Rachel Webb about the experience of freezing her eggs.

While the conversations may get deeply personal, it's never about dropping bombs or serving gossip. "From the beginning, we said, 'We don't spill the tea, we share the sugar.' So, we never wanted to feel salacious. The goal of The Suga is just to explore the spectrum of right answers," said Randolph.

Courtesy of Sugaberry

That spectrum of right answers is why Randolph and Sumpter insisted that Sugaberry cater to an expanded audience of not just moms, but also the kid-curious, dedicated aunties, and those debating if motherhood is for them. For Sumpter, who noted that she kept putting off motherhood to prioritize her career, and Randolph who experienced two failed rounds of IVF before unexpectedly conceiving naturally, it was important to recognize and honor the various relationships women can have to motherhood.

Sumpter and Randolph have continued to push their careers forward even as they've enjoyed the sweetness of motherhood. They're both quick to admit that it's not easy, but they encourage working moms to cut themselves some slack.

"I'm a careerist, and I want to be there for everything my child's gonna do, but it's not gonna happen. I think it's about not beating yourself up over the choices that you're making for where you want to be or where you want to go or what you want for your family," Sumpter shared.

"There might be another mom who's doing it completely different who's spending all of her time with her family. And maybe that works for her. There's more than one way to do it," Randolph added.

Whatever your path, Sugaberry promises to guide and support you through it, no matter what life throws your way. Yes, even if life throws you a pandemic.

Courtesy of Sugaberry

Sugaberry's March launch came just as COVID-19 began to dominate news feeds and worry moms across the world. Sumpter and Randolph pivoted their original launch plan and content strategy to include resources for homeschooling, immune health, and small business funding, proving that they are truly committed to making Sugaberry a space that serves modern moms of color.

"We're constantly communicating with each other about what stories are meaningful for us right now, and where we can be of service, whether that's through information, resources, or doses of joy," Randolph said.

Ultimately, Sumpter and Randolph want Sugaberry to not only be part of the village and support system women of color lean on, but a reminder of the grace they deserve to give themselves. As Sumpter said, "It's so important to take moments out and say, 'I'm doing OK, I'm doing just fine.' We wanted to create a space at The Suga and Sugaberry.com where we're letting moms off the hook. We're saying, 'Give each other grace.'"

Be sure to visit Sugaberry.com and connect with them on Instagram @sugaberry.

Featured image courtesy of Sugaberry

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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