Tracee Ellis Ross knows a thing or two about curls. She did learn from the best, after all. As the daughter of the legendary Diana Ross, big, bountiful ringlets were quite literally in her DNA, but that didn't make tending to them any less of a challenge. In fact, it was the hurdles the actress, producer, and activist encountered finding the right products to suit her shapeshifting curl pattern that inspired her to launch the new haircare line, Pattern. Designed for every individual on the curly, coily, and tightly-textured spectrum (from 3B to 4C hair types), the range includes a shampoo, four types of conditioner (medium, heavy, intensive, and leave-in), and two hair oil serums, as well as a brush for gently detangling, microfiber towel for drying, and a claw clip for putting curls up with maximum hold.
Growing up, Ross had the perfect role model to look up to on the beauty front. "My mom has always, always done her own hair and makeup," explains Ross on a sunny afternoon in Tribeca, clad in a tailored gray suit with a halo of dark raven curls. "That was the example I followed, so most of my tips, tricks, and hacks all came from my own experience and journey with my hair." While she loved her curls throughout her adolescence, Ross began to have a contentious relationship with her hair in high school. "My family was filled with women who wore their hair naturally including my mom, who was the perfect example of a [curly-haired] woman in her glory. But as a teenager, you don't look to your mom for what's cool, right? I looked to music, magazines, television, movies, and in the early '90s there were not tons of examples of women who were wearing their hair naturally." As such, Ross began to smooth out her natural texture with chemical relaxers, professional blowouts at the salon, and by sleeping in rollers at night. Within a few years, her lengths were ravaged by superficial damage, and she decided to embark on transitioning her hair from straight to natural. "I tried black hair products, I tried curly hair products, I tried hydrating products, and I started to determine which things worked best and why," she explains, adding that she took new factors into consideration, such as the humidity and the kind of water she washed her hair in.
By 2000, Ross was starring on Girlfriends as Joan Clayton, strictly doing her own hair and channeling the spirit of her mother. "There was no social media during Girlfriends, so I didn't always have a sense of what people were connecting to, but a few years in I went to a CurlyNikki event and we pulled up and there was a line around the block of girls wearing their naturally curly hair," she explains. "What I realized was that I was a part of a community of people that society had told that our curls, our texture, our pattern, our gravity defying hair was actually not sexy, not beautiful, and not lovable." After Girlfriends ended, Ross set out to create her own line, but encountered many hurdles in the early stages. "They kept saying that I didn't have enough credibility and I needed to partner with a professional," she says. "But I told them that I am my own best expert and no professional has been able to help me with my hair. They know how to put heat on my hair. They don't know how to let it be curly." And that wasn't the only pushback Ross encountered. "The beauty industry didn't understand the breadth, the beauty, the importance, and the money that exists in a community that was not served," she adds.
Finally, Ross was able to bring her dream of an elevated, all-encompassing curly haircare range to fruition—and just as importantly, to do so at an accessible price point. "Everyone should have access to their most beautiful hair in their own bathroom," she says. "This community is not new. We have been here, thriving and being our extraordinary selves. But the world is finally waking up to our power and our beauty."
Pattern will be available at patternbeauty.com on September 9
Originally Appeared on Vogue