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How Becoming a Mom and a Doula Prepared Tia Nomore for Her Starring Role

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Tia Nomore at The New Parish in Oakland on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023. (Estefany Gonzalez)

A lot has happened for Tia Nomore since she became a mom during the height of the pandemic — the arrival of her daughter, and a debut acting role that would challenge her to pull from the most vulnerable depths of her experience. “I feel like a portal sometimes, and that’s very much motherhood,” says the multi-hyphenate artist. “You don’t know what the fuck you’re carrying. I mean, you know, but you don’t until they’re on the other side.”

Nomore stars as Gia in Earth Mama, a forthcoming A24 feature set in 2006 Oakland, directed by U.K.-born, Oakland-raised former Olympic athlete Savanah Leaf. In the film, Nomore plays Gia, a stoic, smart and resourceful single mom going through pregnancy while maintaining a relationship with her other two children in foster care, who she can only see during supervised visits.

“People that have seen the movie are so impressed with my performance, but I have a hard time considering it a performance because a lot of that shit was just very real for me,” says Nomore, who was born and raised in Oakland.

Tia Nomore performs at The New Parish on night seven of the Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Nomore is best known as a rapper signed to San Francisco’s Text Me Records, and before getting tapped for Earth Mama, she was two albums deep into her music career. Her last single, “Drip” featuring Amen and Stoni, came out in 2021, and during last month’s Noise Pop festival, she opened for Junglepussy in front of hundreds of fans at the New Parish. Earth Mama premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival to glowing reviews, and has only added to her momentum.

When Nomore was approached to play Gia, the casting process wasn’t what she expected. She met producers at Bushrod Park in North Oakland, and though it was a familiar setting, she was somewhat skeptical. She received a callback to read for Gia over Zoom, and afterward, she heard that Leaf wanted to meet. When they connected, Nomore instantly picked up on their similarities.


“She like hella tall, lanky, has a stature of importance,” she says about Leaf. “I recognize one another in that because I’m soft, but I’m also very sharp. That was the first thing I recognized off top, and I was like, ‘I fuck with her energy.’”

While becoming Gia on set, Nomore was a year postpartum, still settling into her ever-changing motherhood adventure. Separately, she was training to become a doula, a third career endeavor that gave her an intimate look at other mothers’ experiences, and allowed her to see Gia’s circumstances with sensitivity and grace. Donning a prosthetic pregnancy belly, she felt a sense of clarity, as if the opportunity was sent to her by the spirits above.

Tia Nomore in Downtown Oakland on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Leaf brought additional insights from her experience as a documentarian. She had her first shot at directing alongside Taylor Russell for the 2020 short documentary, The Heart Still Hums, which followed mothers working with Sacramento’s Black Mothers United and Chicks in Crisis, which assists parents overcoming addiction, going through pregnancy without a partner and giving birth at a young age.

“I think for this role, for Gia in particular, I really had to tap into Savannah’s lands, because it’s a story that’s very close to home for her. It’s very personal,” Nomore says. “I had to gain a lot of understanding and empathy for a stranger quite quickly.”

On set, Nomore and Leaf created a bond so deep that they could look at each other, lace fingers and push against one another when things became too emotional or overwhelming. Nomore also depended on her co-stars Erika Alexander for the deeply emotional scenes, and Bokeem Woodbine for lessons on handling parenthood, artistry and getting back to herself after immersing herself in her role.

“I was comforted as Tia to be Gia,” Nomore says. “Like I had my community in real life that knows me from the gate to help support me in doing something so pivotal.”

Tia Nomore backstage at The New Parish in Oakland on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Her connections with the other actors ran deep. Keta Price, who plays Mel, went to school with Nomore’s older sister, and Slim Yani, who plays Ari, and has been friends with Nomore through music since their MySpace days.

“It felt like home, just turf shit,” Nomore explained. “You really just had a whole cast of real Town niggas. It was real, none of us was actors.”

Through her role as Gia, Nomore unlocked a new creative pathway for herself — one that has allowed her to become a better person, mother and artist. She says playing Gia encouraged her to pour into her inner child, which has helped her connect with her daughter. And she’s gratified to portray the challenges of motherhood she’s seen firsthand in her work as a doula, ones that rarely get shine on screen.

“I hella wanted to bring this story to life for moms,” Nomore started. “Nobody fucking asks these moms how they’re doing, or how they got to where they are, or how they can be supported for real. So I had to show that shit in my performance.”

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