Tracee Ellis Ross isn’t here to fulfill the standard expectations of womanhood. In fact, she’s unapologetically breaking them.
With a Golden Globe and clothing line with JC Penny under her belt, Tracee’s stride has just begun, and she’s made it clear that the path she walks is entirely hers. Despite having a global audience project their ideas of womanhood onto her, Tracee Ellis Ross has shown us all that living life for herself is just as much full of joy and love.
Tracee Ellis Ross is our #WCW because she teaches us that living life for yourself shouldn’t be shamed, but rather celebrated. Read on to learn more about the power and inspiration that is Ross.
By: Emily Dinenberg
Born to music business manager, Robert Ellis Silberstein, and singer-actress, Diana Ross, Tracee Ellis Ross grew up in close proximity to the entertainment business. While her joyful and fiery personality always was innate, both of her parents had important an impression on her. When speaking on her dad to Health Magazine, she explained:
“I got a sense of humor from my dad. We have a major connection on that, to the point where my mom is like, “For the love of God, you are your father. OK, Bob…”
Her natural ability to elicit joy and make others laugh would later come in handy as she entered the entertainment industry.
Despite growing up raised by fame, Tracee found she didn’t always crave the spotlight. In an interview with People she recalled:
“I think because of my mom’s fame, it wasn’t ever really a thing I was looking for,” she says. “I was terribly shy growing up. I really had no interest in being in front of the camera.”
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After earning a theater degree at Brown University, Tracee went on to make her first big screen appearance in the independent film Far Harbor. In the years following she hosted the Lifetime TV magazine series The Dish. Tracee also appeared in the films Race Against Fear: A Moment of Truth and Sue. However, Ross made her official break into the comedy world, appearing as a regular on MTV’s The Lyricists Lounge Show.
One of Ross’ biggest career achievements came in 2000. She landed the lead role of Joan Carol Clayton on the hit series Girlfriends.
The show was met with extreme adoration, especially by women in the African American community. Girlfriends even featured Kimberly Elise as Reesie Jackson, Joan’s college rival.
As Marquite Green wrote in MadameNoir:
“The only show in which black women could call their own and completely relate to was “Girlfriends.” Yes, it was a breath of fresh air. It did not go over the top. At the same time it did not degrade and stereotype. They addressed real issues that the woman of color faces in her professional life, love life, personal life and identity issues.”
Ross went on to win a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for her role on the series, and a second Image Award for the role in 2009.
However, what many know Ross for today is her role as Rainbow Johnson on the ABC comedy Series Black-ish.
As Variety explained, before Black-ish aired in 2014, there had not been a black family comedy on broadcast in five years. The importance of Black-ish’s presence in the entertainment community was not lost on Ross. When talking with Variety, she said:
“It was one of the things that was interesting to me. This show was telling the story of a family that didn’t just happen to be black but that actually was black. This is not just about a pot roast falling on the floor. We’re talking about police brutality, gun control, the N-word, preeclampsia, being biracial, taking your husband’s name or not, being a feminist in this culture and what that means as a black woman. These are extraordinary subjects for an authentic family — which is different from the way we usually see these kinds of people portrayed on television.”
Ross later received two NAACP Image Awards and a Primetime Emmy Award for her performance in the series. Her 2016 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series was the first for an African-American woman in that category in 30 years.
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But Ross’ breakthroughs only continued.
After winning a Golden Globe for her role on Blackish, Ross became the first black woman to win the category since Debbie Allen in 1983. She was also the first black nominee in the field since Allen and Nell Carter in 1984.
In her acceptance speech, Ross dedicated the honor to women of color, stating:
“This is for all the women of color and colorful people whose stories, ideas, and thoughts are not always considered worthy and valid and important. But I want you to know that I see you. We see you”
Check out how powerhouse Amandla Stenberg embraces her own girl power and blackness here.
More recently, Glamour Magazine named Tracee one of their 2017 Women of The Year.
She specifically utilized part of her acceptance speech as a platform to shut down outdated versions of womanhood. As a 45 year old single woman, Tracee knows others believe she’ll find success and happiness with a marriage and children.
While this path may be true for some, Ross holds strong in her own truth: her life is meant to be her own.
Tracee encouraged women to look beyond their societal expectations and find success, joy, and love, in their personal goals and achievements.
“I’m going to have to break an agreement that I didn’t really officially agree to sign in the first place… That agreement says: We are here to be of service to others, that our destiny is to live in the shadow of men, that we are simply objects of desire, and that we are willing to live with having our voices stifled again and again by the misogyny of our culture…Well listen here, ladies: I’m tearing it up.”
Rosario Dawson is another amazing example of powerful independence. Learn more about our previous #WCW here.
This is precisely why we love Tracee. She unapologetically rejects societal norms and encourages of others to do the same.
“…I’m sitting there free writing, maybe conversing with my inner child, and I write down: MY LIFE IS MINE. My life is mine… Seems so obvious, but obviously it wasn’t. Because I have NOT been living my life as if it was my own. I mean to a certain extent yes but on a deep level no. So, if my life is actually mine… then I have to really live it for myself. I have to put myself first and not be looking for permission to do so.”
Our #WCW has a message for us all: pay attention to the reality of your life.
Understand your dreams, and how they may not always align with the expectations surrounding you. Break norms, face your fears, and embrace the victory of becoming the bravest version of yourself.
Tracee Ellis Ross is the epitome of taking her own life by the reins, and embracing every part of the ride. No matter how far it strays from the path of others.
Embody the power that is Ross, and make room for your truest self.
As the #WCW herself says:
“So let her out, let her have her glory. This beautiful, powerful part of you is just waiting for your invitation.”
Who inspires you to live life for yourself? Share with us in the comments!