What is there to say that hasn’t be said about Tracee Ellis Ross? Style icon, role model, actual model, award-winning actress, inspirational speaker… Last year, she won the Golden Globe for her role as Dr. Rainbow Johnson in black-ish. This year at the Golden Globes, she didn’t win the award (that went to Rachel Brosnahan, our favorite gentile-playing-Jew in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), but she still won our hearts.
On the Golden Globes red carpet, Tracee spoke in support of the Time’s Up movement, which she helped found: “Time is up on a lot of things. We all have to stand up together and with arms linked and not ranked. We can put an end to abuse and discrimination that makes the imbalance of power…I really feel like the choice of black was a beautiful way to make it accessible to everyone, so that everyone could get involved in whichever way that they felt comfortable and whichever way that it could be an empowered moment, which for me was a turban.”
— Tracee Ellis Ross (@TraceeEllisRoss) January 7, 2018
Of her turban from Marc Jacobs’ Spring 2018 collection, Tracee said, “I saw this Marc Jacobs turban on the runway when it walked down and… I said I will wear that turban! And so, so it came true in a beautiful moment [raises fist] of solidarity and power that I could stand as a we but also in my own glory as an I.”
We could spend all day writing about the Golden Globes and the Time’s Up initiative spearheaded by actresses and activists, but let’s focus on one of the most vocal actresses and activists, the flawless Tracee Ellis Ross. In the spirit of the #18Things lists that have come before who were also familiar faces at the Globes (Gal Gadot, Natalie Portman, Alison Brie, Zoë Kravitz), here are 18 things you didn’t know about Tracee:
1. Yes, she’s Jewish. Her mom is famous singer/actress Diana Ross and her father is Ross Ellis Silberstein, an American music manager. Growing up, she was “very aware of the fact that my mom’s job was extraordinary.”
— Tracee Ellis Ross (@TraceeEllisRoss) November 23, 2016
2. Her real name is Tracee Joy Silberstein, but her dad dropped Silberstein, so they all dropped Silberstein. As she explains, “I really felt strongly that I wanted my father’s name in my name, because everyone knows I’m my mom’s daughter, but I’m also very much my dad’s daughter. And I wanted him, when my name hit a screen, to know that I was also part of him. And so Tracee Ellis Ross it is.”
3. But she can’t be put in a box: “I am a woman, I am a black woman, my dad’s Jewish — all of these different things. But I’m a human first and foremost. And I’m a child of the world. I don’t have an issue with labels.”
4. She is still extremely close with her mom, and has said that no matter her stardom, “She creates privacy and makes space for the sacred in the most public of settings… She has always carved out space for her children. I have always known I was the priority.” And Diana has said of Tracee, “She has her own guiding light. She knows where she wants to be and what she wants to be and how she wants to be treated in her life. I’m very proud of the woman she has become.”
5. Just look at this full-page ad her mom took out to congratulate her on her Emmy nomination:
— Tracee Ellis Ross (@TraceeEllisRoss) August 17, 2016
6. Speaking of the Ross family, her half-brother Evan Ross is married to Ashlee Simpson, which means Tracee’s sister-in-law is the “Outta My Head” singer. Yep.
7. Since she was a teenager she “borrowed” her mom’s clothes, telling W Magazine, “She would leave the house and I went in her room and looked out the window and saw her car go down the driveway, and I marched myself right into her bathroom and started taking clothes. What I liked to do is put them in my closet and live with them as if they were mine.”
8. TBH, Tracee would be amazing at #JewishGeography — she grew up in Los Angeles, went to Dalton in New York, and graduated from Brown University in 1994. In 2015, Brown awarded her an honorary doctorate, “For your original portrayals of interesting and eccentric characters, your willingness to be a mentor and inspiration to young girls, and your continued desire to push the boundaries of imagination in a variety of media, we honor you with the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts…”
9. Her thoughts on awards and the awards season? “Awards mean something and they don’t mean something. They’re important, but not for the reasons that people want to assign to them. Do they validate who people are as humans or decide whose work is better than someone else’s? I don’t really know. But in terms of what they mean in the context of our business, and how importance is assigned to this story versus another, and how that translates into what stories get told — they are incredibly important.”
10. After working in the fashion industry as a model and fashion editor, her on-screen debut was in the film Far Harbor, where she played a black Jewish woman named Kiki. She got the job because, as she explains, “it was Marcia Gay Harden and Jennifer Connelly and they were looking for a black Jewish girl. That was me.” Just look at this throwback Tracee posted in all its ‘90s glory:
11. She has also appeared in two (!!) Kanye West music videos, “The New Workout Plan” and “Touch the Sky.”
12. She’s not married and doesn’t have kids (so, stop googling “Tracee Ellis Ross husband” or “Tracee Ellis Ross kids”), and in her speech at Glamour’s 2017 Women of the Year Summit, she explained how the constant questions about kids impact her — “I look back and think about all the ways we’re told that those two #goals: being chosen and having kids, are what makes you worthy. I mean: Nursery Rhymes. Fairytales. Books. Movies. Sixteen Candles, every love song, and even black-ish — all reiterating this narrow story of ‘husband plus child equals woman.’ And the patriarchy — the patriarchy is not pleased with me right now. I’m failing at my function. Let me tell you, Mike Pence is fucking confused by me right now.” (Go read/listen to the full speech, now).
13. But she does have many, many alter egos, including “TMurda.”
14. Like all of us, she cried watching Wonder Woman.
15. And she looks to Michelle Obama as an inspiration: “Eight years of watching Michelle Obama as a person, not just relegated to doing ‘woman things,’ provided an antidote to all the false representations of black women that have inundated us for centuries — images that don’t represent the reality, or the humanity, of who we are as black people. Of who we are as people. And then to have her name prefaced by two things that are rarely associated with black women — ‘First’ and ‘Lady’ — well, it shattered everything.”
16. For any style inspiration, just turn to Tracee’s Instagram. Her bio reads “Actively compassionate advocate for freedom, equity and joy, culture of beauty expander…” and oh does her Instagram expand our style horizons and bring us JOY. As this ManRepeller article sagely puts it: “In addition to being an actor/comedian/model/black girls activist/author of a children’s book that explains sexual harassment to men/natural hair advocate/professional pep-talk giver/daughter of Diana/fun aunt to everyone on Earth including her elders, Tracee has Style. The proper noun version. Her Instagram, which you should follow, is a parade of delights…”
17. You can kinda have her style…. she just released her own fashion line for JCPenny and is just so excited about it.
— Tracee Ellis Ross (@TraceeEllisRoss) November 5, 2017
18. To leave you, because there are so many more than 18 things to love about Tracee, please just watch her 73 Questions with Vogue, featuring gems like the fact that her ideal love scene would be a threesome with Rihanna and James Dean.