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Tika Sumpter Takes On The Role Of A Lifetime In ‘Southside With You’

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Photographed by Sarah Kjelleren. Styled by Wendy McNett

The actress portrays FLOTUS

The following feature appears in the August 2016 issue of NYLON.

Tika Sumpter wasn’t content to just embody Michelle Obama—her goal was to pull off a pinpoint impression. “I wanted to make sure you heard inflections of Michelle,” she says of her milestone performance as the future first lady in the indie romance Southside With You. A critical darling at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the film tracks a fictionalized version of the first couple’s inaugural date in the summer of 1989, and represents a breakthrough for the 35-year-old actress. To nail her distinct cadence, Sumpter watched hours of college graduation speeches that Michelle Obama has given as first lady. “I studied every word, how she curved her tongue, how she kind of sings when she talks,” she says. The result is a carefully drawn and recognizable portrait of Michelle Robinson, an ambitious and whip-smart lawyer who would go on to become one of the world’s most famous women.

Curled up on a couch in the lobby of the Smyth Hotel in Tribeca, New York, Sumpter is dressed casually in white overalls and a black-and-white striped shirt, which she pairs with a pristine smile. Until now, Sumpter has padded her résumé mainly with supporting roles, most notably as Kevin Hart’s levelheaded wife in the Ride Along movies, and as Chuck Bass’s love interest in the fourth season of Gossip Girl. Before reading the script for Southside With You—a subtle and sophisticated piece of writing that tracks Michelle and Barack (played by Parker Sawyers) as they crisscross Chicago, trading ideas on race, gender, and politics—Sumpter was enchanted by the film’s synopsis, and got on board early as a producer, fulfilling a longtime ambition to work behind the camera. “The great part about being a producer is you’re in the room when decisions are made,” she says, adding that it also allowed her to create a choice opportunity for herself in an industry where they’re hard to come by. “Usually, there aren’t any black people in the room,” she says. “I’m in a place where I want to create because these characters aren’t being written for me.”

A Queens, New York native and one of five siblings, Sumpter didn’t grow up a theater kid: “It was over the top and just wasn’t for me,” she says. But at 17, she began auditioning for commercials on the advice of her boss at the nightclub where she worked. As career insurance, she hatched a backup plan to become a publicist, but while studying communications at Marymount Manhattan College, Sumpter got hit with a $10,000 tuition bill. “It looked like a hundred million dollars at the time,” she says. “I was like, ‘I’m going after my plan A.’” But while pursuing acting, she encountered resistance from her mother, a Rikers Island corrections officer focused on 401(k)s and mortgages. “She’s proud of me now,” says Sumpter, whose dad, a postal worker, died when she was 12. “But she wasn’t like, ‘Go girl, yeah!’ It was like, ‘Girl, go finish school, go get a job.’”

Sumpter instead spent much of her early twenties broke, in between service gigs and indifferent casting calls, while living with roommates all over Manhattan, from Flatiron to Washington Heights. When months of verbal abuse forced her to quit a hotel gig, she broke down in the middle of a sidewalk. Two days later, Sumpter landed a life-changing four-year contract on the soap opera One Life to Live. “Whenever I want to complain,” she says, “I remember walking down that street and crying.”

Now, with her first production credit cinched, Sumpter is hungry for more. “I have stories I want to tell,” she says. “My thing is making sure women know how dope they are, regardless of what the story is.” Outside of work, she’s an admittedly private person. She prefers simple pleasures like dinner parties, traveling, and quality time with her boyfriend, an actor whom she won’t name. “Is he Chris Pine or anybody like that? No. We’re in different spaces. But he’s there for me,” she says. “You have to have somebody who’s mature enough to get it.” For her, the Obamas’ relationship is an inspiration. “I want something like that,” says Sumpter. “Nothing’s perfect. He had a hole in his car. He didn’t always say the right thing, but he was still charming. They both reflected what they needed from each other.” With a dreamy smile on her face, she adds: “Relationship goals.”

Screenshot via YouTube

The band shared details about their new St. Vincent-produced album that will drop "you into the world of catastrophe"

Sleater-Kinney just shared more information about their St. Vincent-produced album and dropped a new single.

Per Billboard, Sleater-Kinney revealed that their new album, which they've been teasing since early this year and will be their first since No Cities To Love from 2015, will be called The Center Won't Hold. It's due out on August 16 via Mom + Pop Records. "We're always mixing the personal and the political but on this record, despite obviously thinking so much about politics, we were really thinking about the person—ourselves or versions of ourselves or iterations of depression or loneliness—in the middle of the chaos," Carrie Brownstein said in a statement. Corin Tucker further noted that the new album will "[drop] you into the world of catastrophe that touches on the election."

Janet Weiss noted that the band will "explore a different sound palette" with this album, and pointed to St. Vincent as the reason behind it. She said that St. Vincent "has a lot of experience building her own music with keyboards and synthesizers so she could be our guide to help us make sense of this new landscape and still sound like us."

To satiate us until then, the band released a lyric video for new single, "The Future Is Here," which is very grungy. Bump it, below.

Sleater-Kinney - The Future Is Here (Official Lyric Video) www.youtube.com

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This is so satisfying!

Even Jon Snow knows just how unsatisfying the final season of Game of Thrones was, and he's ready to apologize. Well, a deepfake of him is at least. A heavily-edited version of Snow's speech from the fourth episode—just before the bodies of those lost in the Battle of Winterfell get burned—now features Snow apologizing for the conclusion of the show and lighting the script on fire.

"It's time for some apologies. I'm sorry we wasted your time," Snow begins. "And I know nothing made sense at the end. When the Starbucks cup is the smallest mistake, you know you fucked up! We take the blame. I'm sorry we wrote this in like six days or something," he adds, before signaling to his peers to light the script with torches and "just forget it forever." "Fuck Season 8," he says before the pages begin to crackle and burn.

If there were more lines left to alter, we would have loved to see Snow also tackle how messy Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister's story line ended up, as well as Bran's kingship, Cersei's boring demise, and the water bottle appearance.

Watch the entire deepfake and try to heal the wounds left by HBO below.

BREAKING: JON SNOW FINALLY APOLOGIZED FOR SEASON 8 youtu.be

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Photo by Darren Craig

It premieres today, exclusively via NYLON

In LP's song "Shaken," the most recent single from her 2018 record Heart To Mouth, she tells the story of seeing her lover out with someone else—ouch. Today, exclusively on NYLON, she releases a cheeky animated music video that pokes fun at the song's heightened drama and perfectly demonstrates all the angst that comes with falling hard for someone.

"She looks at you like I used to/ And I'm just sitting in the corner sh-sh-shaken," LP sings, as the visual—with art by Maayan Priva—depicts the singer hanging out in a bar, watching the girl she likes meet up with another girl. Despite the situation's inherent drama, "Shaken" is less of a ballad and more of an upbeat bop. LP told us she loves the way "this little video captures some of the fun of the song, and its inherent comical anxiety." Sure, heartbreak isn't that funny, but our (sometimes) overly dramatic reaction to it kind of is.

"'Shaken' feels like a bit of a wild card on this record," LP says. "It's the closest I've come to writing a musical, which I hope to do one day." We heartily endorse this idea: Please, LP, give us the queer jukebox musical we crave.

Until that day comes, though, you can watch the music video for "Shaken," below.

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Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

This cameo has the Beyhive buzzing

I went to see Men In Black: International alone. Which would have been fine if it wasn't for the shock I received when I saw two specific characters on the screen. Unable to keep it to myself, I shared a curious look with the stranger next to me, who was obviously thinking the same thing as me. "Is that them...?" I whispered first. "I think… so," she replied. Then the two men in question started to dance, and we were both sure: "Yep, that's them."

It was Laurent and Larry Nicolas Bourgeois, better known as Les Twins. Fans of Beyoncé will recognize the duo as the talented brothers who often accompany her on tour and in music videos. In Men In Black: International, the two of them play shapeshifting entities—they're more like energy forces than aliens—who pursue Tessa Thompson's and Chris Hemsworth's characters throughout the duration of the film. The twins' ability to manipulate their bodies in ways that are graceful and otherworldly really helps sell them as extraterrestrials and is fun to watch.

So if Thompson in a suit or Hemsworth shirtless weren't enough motivation, here's another reason to go see it. If you look close, you can see them in the trailer below.

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL - Official Trailer www.youtube.com

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Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

"I am honored to share this bonding experience with my own daughter"

In a heart-warming Instagram photo, Serena Williams shares the history of hair braiding and the importance of the tradition. The tennis player shared a photo of herself braiding her daughter Olympia Ohanian's hair and spoke about how "honored" she was to be able to "add another generation" to the tradition of the practice.

The photo shows Williams attentively braiding her daughter's hair while Olympia smiles, obviously loving the experience. Williams noted that hair braiding was created by the Himba people in Namibia, Africa, and that "we have been braiding our hair for centuries." "In many African tribes braided hairstyles were a unique way to identify each tribe," she continued.

Williams pointed out that braiding is a bonding experience. "People would often take the time to socialize," she wrote. "It began with the elders braiding their children, then the children would watch and learn from them. The tradition of bonding was carried on for generations, and quickly made its way across the world."

Williams closed her post with a sweet message about her daughter, saying that she's "honored to share this bonding experience" with her.

See the post, below.

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