She won the Fashion Icon Award at the 2020 People's Choice Awards.

Caroline Goldstein
Nov 16, 2020 @ 10:45 am
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Credit: Christopher Polk/E! Entertainment / Contributor, Getty Images

It’s official: Tracee Ellis Ross is a modern fashion icon. The Black-ish star took home the Fashion Icon Award at Sunday’s 2020 People’s Choice Awards, where she shared that “style” is not synonymous with “tons of cash.”

"Secondhand clothing helped me understand that style has nothing to do with money," she said in her acceptance speech. "It's the way you put things together. Style is the how, not the what."

Ross’s understanding of “style on a budget” developed early. She revealed that as a teenager, she said she begged her mom, Diana Ross, "for a seasonal clothing budget—spoiler alert—I did not get it.” As Ross got older, she said, she truly learned the value of a secondhand score.

“When I started paying my own bills, I did not have enough money to buy the clothes that matched the taste level I was accustomed to stealing from my mom’s closet—the best fashion playground of all time," the actress said. "My love of vintage clothing sustained me on a budget. Thank you, Salvation Army and the Rose Bowl Flea Market.”

Of course, growing up with Diana Ross as her mother helped the star cultivate her own sense of style, as well as the power of repurposed clothing.

“Obviously, I have to thank the icon herself, my mom," Ross said, "for her example, her sense of style, her epic closet and her glamour that introduced me to the power of fashion.”

She continued, “After she would finish a show and the curtain would fall, I would go onstage as a little girl and I would collect all of the beads that had fallen off her sparkly dresses, so that I could have pieces of the magic; seeds of the fashion dreams that I was cultivating for myself.”

But like a true style icon, Ross recognizes that fashion is not merely an aesthetic pursuit; it’s unapologetically personal, and deeply political. "I wear my insides on the outside," she said.

"If featuring Black designers at the American Music Awards helps somehow see the power of Black artistry, or if joining the call to wear black at the Golden Globes led to solidarity with women saying time's up on sexual harassment, then you heard me loud and clear," Ross continued, calling others to wield their clothes with intention.

"Use fashion as an entrance," she said. "Let your clothes be your superhero cape, allowing you to be the best you you can be. Activate the clothes through your joy and commitment to the world that you want to see."

Ross concluded, "It doesn't matter if you wear black tie or a Black Lives Matter T-shirt, but suit up and show up, because our action creates our destiny, our joy creates space for our freedom."

Excuse us while we head to our nearest thrift shop.