The actress graces the cover of ELLE.com's inaugural The State of Black Beauty issue, out now

By Hanna Flanagan
August 28, 2020 02:02 PM
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Credit: Djeneba Aduayom

Tracee Ellis Ross is celebrating the history of Black hair on the cover of ELLE.com’s inaugural "The State of Black Beauty" issue, one year after launching her curly girl-friendly line of shampoos, conditioners, gels, creams, tools and more: Pattern Beauty.

Inside the magazine, the actress, 47, explains how her brand came to be and reflects on the on the lack of representation within the beauty industry during a powerful conversation with Kerry Washington.

Credit: Djeneba Aduayom

Ross — who directed the cover shoot herself and was accompanied by an all-Black creative team — sports traditional hairstyles including braids, cornrows and twists, and wears Molly Goddard tulle, Hanifa pleats, an Aisling Camps sheer mock-neck dress, shell earrings by Beads Byaree and more throughout the stunning spread.

“It started as such a personal relationship with my own hair and feeling like I didn't have the support to find what I needed. Not just in terms of products, but in terms of how to love myself,” the black-ish star said of Pattern Beauty. “I was very supported in my family around my hair. But in terms of seeing all different kinds of versions in the wallpaper of my lives out in the world, I wasn't seeing it. And I was getting confused.”

Credit: Djeneba Aduayom

She continued, “All of the things that I was taught from the media were like, I was supposed to have easy breezy beautiful hair. Bouncin' and behavin'. My hair didn’t blow in the wind! All of these things didn't match up. There was a void, in both seeing ourselves in our natural, authentic beauty, and also having products that would work for us to do our hair naturally—to wear it the way it naturally came out of our heads.”

Credit: Djeneba Aduayom

Growing up, Ross remembered wanting to flat iron her hair for special occasions because straight styles were widely considered the “dressy, sexy version” of natural Black hair texture.

The Golden Globe winner also told Washington about a defining moment early-on in her career at the Essence Music Festival: "A woman was like, ‘Girl, you’re on TV. You need to get your hair done’,” Ross recalled. “And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ She was like, ‘Put some heat on your hair! What are you doing?’”

Credit: Djeneba Aduayom

“I see such an evolution on that narrative,” she said. “And I’m so grateful for it.”

And when asked about the importance of standing up for herself in her career and her relationships — especially as a Black woman — the actress told Washington, "advocating for yourself is actually a form of resistance," adding, "It is how each of us push the world to make sure that the real estate matches the reality of who we are and what we deserve.”