Q&A: ‘Black-ish’ star Tracee Ellis Ross discusses beauty, style, well-being
With her halo of healthy curls, flawless complexion and magnetic smile, Tracee Ellis Ross has become a go-to source for makeup and fashion advice. The 42-year-old star of ABC’s “black-ish” and daughter of glamorous pop superstar Diana Ross grew up in Europe and New York and spent summers in California, developing a feminine-chic style that mixes form-fitting dresses and sophisticated prints for a combination of Old Hollywood glamour and modern style. This is clearly a woman who understands the power of tailoring and how to confidently complement her gorgeous figure. It’s no wonder she has more than a million followers on her social media channels, all rich with beauty, style and well-being tips.
Much of your website, Facebook and Instagram accounts are devoted to beauty, style and well-being. Is that due to a longtime, personal passion or did it evolve from people asking you, “Your style is fabulous, how can I re-create that?”
I think I came out of the womb this way. I think I came out ready to shop. I’ve always been into beauty in general. I don’t just mean like beauty products, I mean just beautiful things. I love beautiful fireworks. I love beautiful olive oil. I love beautiful trees. I love beautiful flowers. That’s always been my thing. Also, after college I worked at New York magazine in the fashion department and at Mirabella as a contributing editor. And so with style, it’s funny because people say, of course, your mom’s Diana Ross, but I have to say, not that my siblings don’t love style, but me and my brother Evan are the only ones who got it to this extent. It’s one of the ways I express myself creatively.
Your hair is really inspirational to a lot of women.
I would say my hair is really a pain in the …! It’s high-maintenance, high-return.
What’s your secret? Can you recommend two products or quick tips?
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.... Deep conditioning regularly and making sure the products you use don’t have alcohol in them are really important. Also, I usually only [use] shampoo [in] my hair once a week. I often just rinse my hair, I do the same motion as if shampooing, but just with water, and then conditioner again for hydration.
So many women are now embracing their naturally curly hair. On social media some even call it a curly hair “movement.” Did you ever wish your hair was straight or get pressured to straighten it?
I’ve straightened my hair. My hair will do whatever you want it to do. It has taken me years to learn my hair. It seems somewhat trivial when you call it a curly hair movement, but when you look at it in the context of the culture of beauty, and expanding our definition of what is considered beautiful, I think it has a larger impact. Embracing a larger, more diverse picture of what it means to be beautiful, that curly hair, natural hair, coarser textures, all fall within the context of beautiful. And for that, I am very grateful that’s happening. I personally came from a curly hair, big hair, natural hair family. According to my mom, the bigger the better with the hair. I want to look like my mom. So the bigger I can get my hair, the more I look like my mom.
There’s often mother/daughter tension. Was there one big fashion or beauty trend you took on that your mom didn’t approve?
My mom is so supportive of all of her kids, and such a generous spirit around that kind of stuff, so creative and glamorous. One thing I did just think of, which was a generational shift, is I love a dewy face … and my mom comes from a generation of, you know, a matte face, matte powder. But in general, no, half the time I look up and realize, “Oh my God, I’m literally re-creating a look of my mom’s.” I feel like I could mimic every one of her looks and never get bored, and still have more to do. My mom knows what she’s doing. My mom understands beauty. My mom understands style. My mom has incredible taste. So I feel like I was inadvertently tutored under one of the best. And I have a similar body as my mom. So it’s been really easy to steal her clothes.
I saw a video on your website about finding the right red lipstick.
I’ve been wearing MAC’s Ruby Woo lipstick since high school. If you look up the hashtag #redlipstick, I did a whole series on that. I mix the majority of my lipsticks with Ruby Woo. I don’t like glosses. I don’t like stains. I like full-on, old-school, completely opaque matte lipstick.
I love how you wear patterns. You’re not afraid to mix it up.
Oh, thank you. I love a pattern. It’s a wonderful trick when you’re a curvy lady. Patterns in tight dresses are really flattering. Sometimes with a solid color, you can’t hide anything, but with a pattern you can.
Who are your favorite designers?
I have too many favorite designers to be able to list them all, but I always find myself drawn to Rachel Comey, Céline, Duro Olowu and Isabel Marant. I will forever cherish my vintage pieces as well as discovering new ones.
I watched an interview where you said, “The color of my skin doesn’t define me.” You have a mixed heritage, you were raised in and out of the United States and your style seems to have global perspective. Do you want to talk about this idea of being yourself, no matter how complex that reality is, not to let labels define you?
I love that you’ve picked up on that. That is very much my motto. I am a woman, I am a black woman, my dad’s Jewish — all of these different things. But I’m a human first and foremost. And I’m a child of the world. I don’t have an issue with labels.
I heard a wonderful quote, “Who I am speaks louder than any one moment. Who I am speaks louder than any one thing I say.” … When I was growing up, trying to have hair I didn’t have, straightening it, using heat, I was actually ruining what I was given. It was when I realized I needed to stop trying to be somebody else and be myself, I actually started to own, accept and love what I had. It’s just like, you know, I have a curvy body. I can starve myself until the cows come home, my shape is going to be my shape. That is another thing I did growing up — I kept thinking I could change my body shape. This is the shape I have, so I get to embrace it.