Tracee Ellis Ross’s obsession with fashion stems from a young age. First, it was passed down to her by her mother, Diana Ross. “As a child, going through my mother’s closet was one of the ways I connected to her and her legacy,” Ross, 44, tells PEOPLE for an interview in this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.
Then, after college, long before her she became the Golden Globe-nominated star of Black-ish, she worked in the fashion industry as a stylist.
“I’ve always been connected to the narrative of clothing,” she says. “My mom taught me that you can spend money on nice things if you’re going to use them. For example, I have an Alexander McQueen jacket that I wear with everything, even sweatpants.”
One of the things she has also learned over the years is stop obsessing over her size.
“You know, I am not a sample size,” she says. “I am not a model size. I am small for people and big for an actress. My weight fluctuates a lot and I move with it. It is what it is. That’s why I try not to have a relationship with the size that I am.”
And she deals with the change in her own unique way. “I actually own my favorite jeans in three sizes—28, 29 and 30,” she explains.
“Depending on how I feel, I always start with the big ones and if I get to go down, great,” she says. “It’s the same thing with dresses and clothing. I want to wear something that makes me feel gorgeous, not that makes me feel self-conscious about my body. Hiding insecurities or putting attention on the stuff that feels good is really the key.”
Color helps her do that as well. “I think I am a very colorful person,” she says. “And I am certainly not afraid of color. I think a lot of colors look good on my skin tone. I can look very severe when I wear black but there is a lightness that comes through me when I wear color.”
Ultimately, though, when it comes to picking out her looks, she says “there’s no real method to my madness.” All she does, she says, is “ask what is the best thing out of my closet or the best thing on the rack that makes me feel good and fits.”
For more of our exclusive interview with Tracee, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.