Tracee Ellis Ross drops real wisdom on why it's important to see black women's natural hair on TV
TV is having a very necessary black hair moment. Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays Rainbow on ABC’s Black-ish, loves it. You should too.
From Ross’s curly ‘do on Black-ish to Viola Davis removing her wig on How to Get Away with Murder, black women on primetime are wearing and revealing their natural hair. Why is this such fabulous news? Because seeing unprocessed black hair on television helps to celebrate all facets of black beauty. While Claire Huxtable is undoubtedly a dame, we (black women) know that silky smooth blow-outs like hers aren’t the only way to look fly. In fact, for the modern woman, that sort of meticulous upkeep is not always possible. This is one of the reasons Ross loves that her character on Black-ish — an anesthesiologist, wife, and mom of four — embraces her own big and curly hair, telling EW.com,“I think my hair is part of the reality of this woman’s life.”
I love Ellis’ hair on TV because I identify 100% with her sloppy buns at home and her stray curls and voluminous mane at work. I also adored when her youngest daughter on the show, played by cutie Marsai Martin, popped in and out of scenes with a disheveled ponytail and a doobie wrap, because that, too, is what black hair looks like.
Meanwhile, over on How To Get Away With Murder every single time Davis’ character takes off her wig, revealing a perfectly cropped cut, is extremely powerful. Not only is she stripping off the armor she wears during the day, she is showing a beauty regimen that is a reality for many black women while also directly contrasting a very narrow perception of black beauty generally depicted in the mainstream. As Ross put it: “[What] is important about Viola Davis taking her wig off on How to Get Away With Murder is that it illustrates that there is a mask that women are thought to have to wear. For black women, it can be a more complex mask.”
The reality is, black women wear their hair in many different ways, so it’s about time television represent that. Ross spoke widely on why seeing these characters’ natural hair is such a big deal for black women on TV and watching TV: “What I think is exciting is that to a certain extent, there is a revolution happening where black women are owning their own beauty, despite the standard of beauty that in the past has not had space for it.”
And then she summed up her whole point totally perfectly. “You hire me, you hire my hair and you hire my ass.” You go, Tracee!