Pepi Sonuga is an actress well known for her role as Sally Benton in the TV series The Fosters.
Birthday: September 8, 1993
Born: Lagos, Nigeria
Famous for: Model, Actress
Pepi Sonuga was born in Lagos, Nigeria. At the age of 10 she moved to Los Angeles, USA. She started modelling at a early age and at 15 was crowned Miss Teen Los Angeles. From this success she modelled for several brands such as Sketchers and Forever 21.
At 16 she had dreams of being a pop star and recorded a whole studio album which was never released.
Pepi studied theater arts, improvisation, and script writing. In 2009 she featured in short film Weigh Money. In 2013 she had a role in the movie Life of a King and then moved to TV to star in General Hospital as Taylor DuBois. In 2015 she starred in Mortal Kombat X: Generations.
She also appeared in several other TV series such as Filthy Preppy Teen$ (2015) and Ash vs Evil Dead (2016). She gained popularity for her role as Sally Benton in The Fosters (2016) and stars alongside Bella Thorne as Tangey in Famous in Love (2017).
*Photo credits provided in references section below where possible. View a list of photographers here.
Teen Vogue: How are you feeling now that the show is just about to debut?
Pepi Sonuga: I am feeling all kinds of emotions. I am happy and excited, very nervous. This show is very special because it’s the first project that I’ve ever worked on that’s a long time coming. We all feel connected to it. It’s sort of like when you create this baby or this child and you and your family really love it but then you’re sending it out to the world and you’re like, OK, I hope you like it, too.
TV: What drew you to this project?
PS: From the second I knew about it, it got me hooked. I read through breakdown for Tangey and I felt it in my gut I was meant to play this girl. I knew it in my soul.
I loved the fact that were so many different characters. I always love ensemble types of teen shows. I think they’re just better, as opposed to having one lead person and then a bunch of supporting characters. I think it’s cool to have different opinions and different characters.
The fact that Tangey is a pop star is also exciting. When I was 16, I had dreams of being a pop star. I wrote and recorded a whole studio album but then I found out that it was actually really bad and I’m not a good artist so I scratched that. I’m living through Tangey right now. It’s literally a dream come true getting to act and sing.
TV: How does it feel to revisit that dream in this new environment?
PS: It feels good and it really just lets me know that timing is everything. When I made that album I was feeling like, ‘No one ever speak of that again.’ [This show] made me revisit it and listen to it and I’ve gotten a different perspective on it. I was 16 and I was thinking about 16-year-old things and it’s fine. Being a singer on this show is giving me a newfound confidence is my singing abilities and my taste in music. I didn’t notice that was growing all these years but I guess now watching it come full circle has definitely piqued my interest again into the music industry.
TV: Tangey’s storyline is singular because in addition to wanting to act like the other characters, she’s an established pop star and has her foot in both Hollywood and the music industry. Is there anything you think that duality brings to the series?
PS: Anytime you have music in TV or film, that’s always fun. Tangey is definitely going to break the Hollywood-acting vibe we have [on the show]. In general, who she is, I’m proud of her, and I’m proud to be her and represent her because I think she’s someone that all girls can relate to. She’s a really strong woman and she’s a good friend and she’s a good person and she just wants what’s best for herself and her brand. I think it’s going to be cool to see that sort of character on screen, strong but sweet. She has so many different layers, I love her.
TV: What was your first reaction when you read all of the different subplots in the scripts?
PS: Oh my gosh, it’s the most awesome show. Every time I get the script, I have to sit and ready everything all through. Obviously before I film something, I’m going to read the entire script, but sometimes if I don’t have enough time I could just skim through and see what my business is and get an idea and whatnot. But Famous in Love, I can’t ever do that. They’re all so interesting. You have to sit down and really dive into it. It’s incredible.
TV: How did you and the rest of the cast create your dynamic both on-screen and off?
PS: I can’t even tell you how we vibed. Maybe it’s because a lot of us happen to know each other already. I don’t know if this is public knowledge, but a month before [Carter Jenkins and Keith Powers and I] got Famous in Love, we auditioned for the same exact TV show; it was between us and one other person. We’re all sitting there, and we’re like, “We have to get this, guys,” and we didn’t get it. A month later, we’re all on Famous in Love. I think we all came on to this show with this excited energy and googly eyes.
I don’t know why we get along so much honestly, I’m trying to make things up. We just like each other. For the most part, I’m always just hanging out with my friends. That’s all it really is. When we’re on set, it never feels too scary because I have seven other people that are going through the exact same motions as me. That’s fun. It maybe makes it more exciting than anything, and because Marlene and the other creators, they all came from Pretty Little Liars. It’s always nice to have a leader that knows where they’re going, as opposed to a leader that’s like, “Well, we’ll figure it out together.” Marlene is definitely the captain of this ship, and I feel like I’m in really good hands and that’s comforting.
TV: A lot of the show revolves around how people are treated by the Hollywood machine. Is it in any way similar to how you’ve experienced the industry?
This [show] is the best Hollywood experience I’ve ever had. I come on to every job being like, “I love acting, this is what I want to do with my life and no matter what situation happens on the set, it doesn’t affect me.” I come on prepping myself for that, especially when I’m told that seven other kids my age are going to be on the show. This show — I feel like it’s something so special, not only on screen and how wonderful the writing and all that is, but really the chemistry that we have behind-the-scenes is really amazing. That’s different from anything I’ve ever worked on.
What’s also different is how much creative control I feel like I have. Maybe creative is just good at making us feel like we have control, but as an actress, you feel great when you feel like you helped create the character that you’re playing. I’ve heard other actresses say, “After the third season, you and the creatives come to an understanding of who this character is,” but I can honestly say after shooting the first season, I know who Tangey is and I know who I want her to be because they let me discover that.
TV: Of all the love triangles in the show, is there one you ship the most?
PS: I totally ship Tangey and Jordan. Dude, they are so special. I’m living vicariously through their relationship right now. They support each other. I think they compliment each other very well, but they also protect each other. They’re really friends, and you see that when you watch the show. They deal with all these other things that we’re not dealing with. You see them getting paparazzi’d and whatnot and that’s always fun. It’s just a fun relationship.