Tracee Ellis Ross is a rule breaker. A 48-year-old Black woman, she's still breaking ground in Hollywood, starring in last year’s High Note, running her hair-care brand, Pattern Beauty, and filming the celebrated Black-ish (while producing its spinoff, Mixed-ish) that won her four Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe. In an interview with Marie Claire published Monday, Ross opened up about the trajectory of her career, growing up in the spotlight of her mother Diana Ross, and becoming comfortable in her own skin in spite of the pressure—from Hollywood and society at large—to “fit into a standard that does not have space for us."
Among the pressures the actress discussed was getting married. Ross shared that while she's long dreamed of saying "I do," she also acknowledges that life with a husband, kids, and a "picket fence" is in many ways a goal we're programmed to desire. “And I would still love [a wedding], but what am I going to do, just sit around, waiting? Shut up. I’ve got so many things to do,” said Ross.
Ross has certainly kept busy, making a point to say that she thrives most when drowned in new appointments and projects, some of which she revealed may even include standup and a music album. “I feel the sexiest I’ve ever felt; it’s going to waste in the pandemic,” she joked.
Her radiant energy is not lost on her Instagram followers—she's made an icon of herself with her viral, sensual vacation posts. Though such fun antics may seem to come naturally to the actress, she also shared that she's come a long way in her relationship with herself, having dealt with many growing pains as she faced Hollywood gatekeeping early in her career.
Ross also recalls navigating Hollywood through the early 2000s as a budding actress in her 20s when Friends dominated primetime and there was still deep segregation on TV, Marie Claire notes. Despite starring in CW and UPN's Girlfriends, which ran for eight seasons, it was a while before mainstream media saw value in Ross's work because she starred in a "Black show." “I was told by the Jay Leno talent person for The Tonight Show, ‘We love Tracee. Call us when she gets something,’" recalled Ross. "And in my head, I was like, 'Get what? What do I need to get? Do I need to make my hair straighter?'"
Today, as the actress reflects on the racism she experienced in Hollywood, she says, "It was very hard at the time to not personalize that, to know that it was a societal thing, not a me thing.”
She added, “And so taking a risk to try something new, I know it’s not going to shatter who I am. Now it’s like a hit. It’s like, ‘Ow, that was really uncomfortable. I’m going to take a nap. I’m going to cry for a couple of days, and I will be back.’
“At this age, a mistake can be processed as a mistake, not ‘I’m a mistake.’ This is the beauty of it. I’m 48 years old, and there’s so much more to try.”
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