Chicago mom's epic Sheryl Lee Ralph Halloween costume goes viral

This year has been a big one for Sheryl Lee Ralph.

In 2022 alone, Ralph’s five-decades long career has continued to rise with the success of “Abbott Elementary,” a role which earned her an Emmy nomination and subsequent win. The touching moment turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving, including serving as the inspiration for Halloween costumes a plenty.

Tanikia Thompson-Carpenter, a 38-year-old actor from Chicago, brought out all of the stops for her costume this year. In honor of Ralph’s glorious win at the Emmy Awards in September 2022, Thompson-Carpenter recreated the actor’s look from the award show with one special surprise — her 4-year-old daughter, India, dressed as the actual Emmy award.

Thompson-Carpenter shared a video of her costume on Instagram on Friday, Oct. 28 that showed off the mother-daughter look. She wore a strapless black gown with her hair styled in a slicked-back braided ponytail adorned with rhinestones à la Ralph’s from the evening. Meanwhile, her daughter wore a metallic gold onesie and posed with a gold wire sculpture to pull off her look at Ralph’s Emmy.

The video caught the attention of Ralph herself, with the actor reposting the clip on her own Instagram later that day. In the caption, she penned a touching note for Thompson-Carpenter, writing, “It’s her ‘Lil Emmy’ for me. Lord I think I’ve seen it all! I think this probably might be the best Halloween costume I have ever seen! ❤️❤️#thisiswhatbelievinglookslike.”

Thompson-Carpenter — who is an actor and writer herself — has always been drawn to the big award shows. She talked about the significance of the shows to TODAY on the phone, explaining, “The Emmys and Oscars are big nights for me because I’m always just really inspired from all of the categories and of course, women of color who are nominated and actually win.”

“So for her to be a Black woman and seeing her from ‘Moesha’ to ‘Sister Act 2’ and knowing that she’s been in the game for a long time and never really got her flowers, literally I was crying when she won,” she said before lauding Ralph's look. “She literally looked like walking art. Everything was whimsical. I kid you not, that night I said, ‘That is my Halloween costume and my daughter is gonna be the Emmy.’”

They even recreated a step and repeat! (Tanikia Thompson-Carpenter)
They even recreated a step and repeat! (Tanikia Thompson-Carpenter)

The mother-daughter costume was a fit for more reasons that one, too. Thompson-Carpenter shared another sentimental reason behind her costume, adding, “I said it because that’s her first Emmy and my daughter, she’s my first baby, so it just makes sense. That’s her first and I have my first.”

Thompson-Carpenter started planning out her outfit after the award show, scouring online stores for parts of the look, including the rhinestones for her hair and her daughter’s gold metallic onesie. She was able to find the black gown online as well and talked to her hairstylist about creating a braid to resemble Ralph’s long, bejeweled hair from the award show.

Posing for the cameras! (Tanikia Thompson-Carpenter)
Posing for the cameras! (Tanikia Thompson-Carpenter)

In addition to being fans of Ralph, “Abbott Elementary” happens to be one of the family’s favorite shows to watch together. In fact, Thompson-Carpenter said that while her daughter doesn’t watch much TV, the ABC smash hit has caught her eye.

“She pays attention to ‘Abbott’ because of the children and it’s her first year at school,” she explained. “When ‘Abbott’ is on, that’s the only grown-up show that she will actually watch when the kids are actually in the scene. She’ll be like ‘Oh, they get in line, I get in line!’ Just little things that she recognized that she does in her class.”

This face on India may be the cutest thing we've ever seen. (Tanikia Thompson-Carpenter)
This face on India may be the cutest thing we've ever seen. (Tanikia Thompson-Carpenter)

Ralph wasn't the only that celebrated Thompson-Carpenter's homage to her, either. The comment section included sweet sentiments from Viola Davis, Terri J. Vaughn, and Terrell Carter.

“I have been shaking all night,” Thompson-Carpenter said of the celebrity response. “I was at a friend’s house last night for game night and I couldn’t even focus because every time I would open Instagram, it would be another mini happy attack. I couldn’t take it because these are all people who I look up to in the industry."

The response Thompson-Carpenter has gotten on her costume outside of the celebrity reactions has been touching for her too. Between the direct messages she has received and people tagging her and resharing her video, she said the support “means a lot,” explaining, “As a content creator, as writer, and an actor myself, we have these ideas all the time and you never know what’s going to go viral.”

“To have an idea and to see it so well received, it means a lot and it just confirmed, 'Hey, just keep going, keep creating, keep thinking of things and it will open doors.'” she added. “To have Sheryl herself post it… it means so much. She’s having an amazing year and I’m just happy I get to be a small part of giving her her flowers as a Black actress, to show that you mean a lot to us.

"If it made her happy and it made her day, it just makes me happy.”

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