Story by Stereo Williams
Photography by DeWayne Rogers
Photography Assistant: Mike Cooke
Makeup: Jessica Smalls
Hair: Hadiiya Barbel
Wardrobe: Jason Rembert

Tika Sumpter has been in front of the camera for the better part of a decade. The model-turned-actress is one of the stars of the action-comedy Ride Along, the Ice Cube, Kevin Hart film that kick-starts her 2014. It comes on the heels of what turned out to be a breakthrough year for the native New Yorker, but don’t think for a second that the beautiful star is basking in the glow of newfound fame or looking forward to “It Girl” status in Hollywood. Quite the contrary; Tika Sumpter is here to work.

“I think one of the most important lessons that I’ve learned is to put your head down and work,” she says. “Don’t look at other people and compare yourself. Just do the work. Because when the opportunity is there, you have to be ready. Make sure your craft is refined and you’re constantly working on it. Plow through the weeds. Go to the auditions and go to the meetings and be on time. Stop looking to the left or the right. Keep your head down and keep moving.”

On double standards…

“Life is messy. People make decisions. Sometimes art imitates life,” adds Sumpter. “And I think, as people of color, we have to understand that we have stories, too, that need to be told. And real or not, that makes a good show and good characters and makes people watch.”

“Some women are not really lifting up other women in these arenas. Which is really sad, because finally we’re getting some kind of voice,” she says of the criticism many black women have of these shows. “Some of the criticism is even louder than ever. But for the most part, I feel that a lot of people are positive about these shows and are happy to see themselves and it’s fun to watch. And it’s not just black people watching the shows—there are other people watching, as well. So I’m grateful for the masses that are positive about it and are entertained.”

Read more on rollingout.com.