Tracee Ellis Ross Got Real About the Struggle of Learning to Love Her Hair

She said it was hard to love her hair "in a world that doesn't mirror that celebration."

“Why would anyone want to buy hair-care products from an actress?” It’s that very question that pushed Tracee Ellis Ross to continue pursuing her dream of carving out a space for herself and her hair in the beauty market. In her May 17th cover story for Marie Claire, the actress and CEO is opening up about her tumultuous relationship with her own hair, sharing that it’s something she’s struggled with since she was a young girl. 

“My mom would wake up on Wednesday morning with the hot comb on the stove and try and get my edges straight,” she recalled, also stating that visits to the hair salon were a weekly occurrence. However, this “beauty routine” was often associated with pain and racial prejudice. She “believes a great deal of that pain comes from Black people being forced to ‘fit into a standard that does not have space for us,'” per the magazine. 

Learning to love my hair in a world that doesn’t mirror that celebration has been a form of both resistance and the claiming of my identity, my selfhood, my legacy, my ancestral lines, the history that I come from.

While Ross admits she’s spent many years “beat[ing] my hair into submission,” it’s also led to a lot of self-love and acceptance. 

In addition to her many other jobs—award-winning actress, singer, TV producer, fashion icon, the list goes on—Ross is also the CEO of Pattern, a hair care brand designed specifically for curly, coily, and tight textures. She recalls her business being a plan 10 years in the making filled with lots of rejection and product trials. While she is the brains and creative force behind the company, she isn’t the face. 

With a finger directed at her temple, she said, “As a CEO, it’s a lot of this, but I have to remind myself to stay connected to my heart and my gut.”

The past two years have been quite the whirlwind for Pattern, which is now exclusively sold at Ulta Beauty. 

Ross didn’t only land permanent shelf space at the mega-beauty retailer, she was also announced as Ulta’s diversity and inclusion adviser in February of this year. “She’s going to bring passion, experience, and perspective to this work. She’s going to give us counsel and inspiration, and she’ll also help to drive accountability,” Ulta CEO, Mary Dillon, shared to the press. 

To Ross, this is more than just a new job title or résumé booster. She’s in it for the long haul and she’s in it to make real change. “I want the world to be a better place. And I want Black people to feel really good walking into a retail space.”

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
Filed Under