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The actress — whose new movie The High Note is available on-demand May 29 — says the idea of being compared to her mother Diana Ross was "terrifying"

By Jason Sheeler
May 22, 2020 10:47 AM
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"The best place to listen to music is in the car, of course."

Tracee Ellis Ross is telling the story of when her mother heard her sing for the first time — which was only earlier this year and for the new movie The High Note. Her mother, of course, is Diana Ross, so that would make anyone a little nervous.

"There’s a reason I waited 47 years to let my voice out publicly!" the black-ish star tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "It was my childhood dream to sing — but terrifying when your mother is who my mother is. The idea of comparison; that’s in a child’s mind or an adult’s mind. I could be taken down and obliterated."

But it was time. So, Tracee drove over to Diana’s house. "We sat in my car in her driveway." Tracee played the song "Love Myself."

  • For more about Tracee Ellis Ross, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
tracee and diana ross
Diana and Tracee Ellis Ross
| Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

"It felt like bringing her my heart," Tracee remembers. Diana, 76, asked Tracee to play the song again. "And then my mother said, 'Finally. Finally.'" Tracee felt the same way. "I have wanted to sing for so long. My mom teared up and we just kept looking at each other. We were both so excited. My mom has always known I could sing. There have been gentle nudges over the years, so this was a big moment."

RELATED VIDEO: Rhonda Ross Praises Mom Diana Ross for 'Miraculous' Job Raising Kids to 'Find Their Own Power'

Tracee has had a longer career than most people realize. While she found major stardom on black-ish in 2014, she has been working since she was 17.  (She’s technically a model-turned-TV-host-turned-actress-turned beauty mogul; she launched Pattern Beauty last year, offering products for "curly, coily, tightly textured hair.") Now, well, she’s been given an opportunity to take stock.

Since sheltering at home — "I’m on the good side of this, I know I’m fortunate"— Tracee has had a moment to reflect on the opportunity this film has given her.

"Singing was terrifying and invigorating and the most fun I’ve ever had with my clothes on," she says. "You tell yourself you want to do something and then you dive in and are, like, 'What the hell have I done!!?'" Tracee laughs. "This movie was just the perfect thing to allow me to face the fear of singing. And to realize that me singing has nothing to do with my mom. It’s my voice. This was me telling my own truth."

And if you’re wondering, yes Tracee wants to sing with her mom, Diana. "Wouldn’t that be fun? It would also be fun to do a duet with my brother Evan Ross, my sister Rhonda Ross, and my step-sister Leona Naess. They are all singers too. For God’s sake, while we are at it, I could also do a duet with Rihanna, John Legend, Childish Gambino… Shall I go on? Looks like I want a future in this singing thing."

The High Note, which also stars Dakota Johnson, Ice Cube, Zoë Chao and Kelvin Harrison Jr., is available on-demand May 29.