October 09, 2018 09:27 PM

 

Tracee Ellis Ross returned to host the AMAs this year, and she did so with style that makes a statement. Kicking things off with an opening dance number, the multi-hyphenate star explained there was a message of racial inclusivity behind her impressive stage wardrobe, on which she collaborated with stylist and close friend Karla Welch.

Ross, 45, opened the show by requesting everybody watching to “dial up their compassion, dial down their judgment and literally act like they’re rooting for one of their best friends doing a talent show,” followed by an impressive dance number in which she wore a navy blue sequin Nicolas Jebran catsuit and floor-length Dapper Dan x Gucci cape. Then she introduced some of the performers and nominees in the audience and explained that for her tonight was “also about clothes.”

“I will feature black designers in all of my looks tonight,” she announced to the crowd, before joking that she “might finally make it on to the Shaderoom and if you don’t know what the Shaderoom is, it’s the black TMZ.”

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She hit the carpet wearing a blush Pyer Moss “Power Suit” featuring black lapels. The label was founded in 2013 by designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, as a mens and womenswear fashion brand with a mission of “building a narrative that speaks about heritage and activism.”

The Black-ish star, who often champions the need for more diversity in Hollywood, told PEOPLE ahead of the show that she was very excited about the inclusive theme.

“We have a really specific theme this year — a story that I’m telling about who is making all of the clothes — but I will keep that a secret and share that during the show,” she said. “That feels really special to me and very exciting, and that was sort of our guiding force and kind of the marching orders I gave Karla [Welch] in how to go out and hunt for things in that particular theme.”

  • Check out PEOPLE’s full AMAs coverage to get the latest news on one of music’s biggest nights.
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Ross and Welch have a very collaborative process, and always work together when pulling the star’s looks, most recently working together on her head-turning and best dressed list topping hot pink Valentino Haute Couture confection worn to the Emmy Awards.

“Karla and I work so well together. Other than that, it’s just whatever looks good on my body, and makes me feel comfortable and powerful,” Ross said. “All different kinds of clothes make my heart sing.”

Throughout the show, Ross changed a total of 10 times wearing an array of looks including designs from CD Greene, Shanel Campbell, Off-White, Sergio Hudson, Claude Lavie Kameni, Balmain and Cushnie. (See them all below!)

One particular outfit included an “I am a voter” T-shirt created by Rise Up and Vote to encourage voter turnout. Urban Outfitters, Bumble and more brands have all teamed up with the campaign.

And while she brought just as many amazing looks as last year, Ross’ original plan was to scale it back a little bit.

“My only gripe about last year is that all of those amazing clothes didn’t get seen as much as I wanted them to get seen,” she shared. “However, knowing me, if we’ve got the looks I’m gonna want to put them on. You might have to see it all on my Instagram instead of on stage.”

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