Saying that Tracee Ellis Ross's middle name is Joy is not just an allusion to her big, bubbly personality: "When I professionally changed my middle name to Ellis, my father's middle name, my mom said to me, 'I'm sad that you let go of Joy, but it's OK because you've embodied it,'" recalls the Golden Globe-winning star of the ABC hit Black-ish. "I've always sort of cultivated joy, found a way to laugh at life, and that has amplified into a sense of self-care that's also about finding serenity and peace with myself." Sometimes that means engaging in what Tracee, 44, calls "healthy risky behavior" - setting happiness goals to move herself in the right direction. "You don't have to jump off the 31st floor of the building. Take the stairs, go at your pace, but push yourself a little bit," she says. Let Tracee push you toward your best self, too, and your most awesome summer will be this one.
On people who try to dampen her joyful spirit: "There are joy stealers everywhere! Honestly, a lot of people don't do it on purpose. Joy makes them uncomfortable. So I do my best not to take it personally. I will literally imagine myself moving out of the way and letting their stuff just pass me by."
On her changing relationship with her looks: "I've always had a somewhat contentious relationship with my body. I spent years trying to teach myself to smile in a way that made my top lip look smaller. A lot of that has to do with sexism and racism combined with the ever-changing tides of the culture of beauty. One minute, you're supposed to be really skinny - the next minute, you're supposed to have huge boobs. One minute you're supposed to have no lips, the next they're supposed to be full. No one can keep up! I finally got to a place where I was like, excuse my French, "F--- that. That's not fair." So I got to then choose for myself what makes me feel empowered."
On being loving her natural hair: "For a long time, I was trying to beat my hair into submission so that it would do what I thought it was supposed to do to be sexy, so that it would be silky. But the more I supported my hair in its authentic texture, the more choices I had for it to do hundreds of different things. That was exciting to me. I'm really grateful to the whole natural-hair movement. It's a genuine expression of how the culture of beauty is expanding to be less about perfection and concealment."
Her advice for those making a big beauty change: "The biggest thing is to give yourself the freedom to have fun. Whether it's about going natural with your hair or deciding that you want to put some Botox in your face, you have to do what's best for you and not feel shame about that decision. Try whatever it is you want to try."
On embracing solo plans: "I really enjoy going on vacation by myself. I literally get to follow my own pace. A lot of women have children, husbands, jobs, so there's always someone they are accountable to. It's really nice to do things on your own, because you become accountable just to your own heart's desires."
For more from Tracee, pick up the July/August issue of Redbook on newsstands June 27.
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