‘It’s really about finding balance’
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS | TRACEE ELLIS-ROSS
BY KIMBERLY BAILEY-TUREAUD
Tracee Ellis Ross is one of the most popular television stars of our time, and she is making history with the hit ABC sitcom “Black-ish.” In January, her role as Dr. Rainbow Johnson enabled the showbiz scion to become the first African-American in more than 30 years to win the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series-Musical or Comedy.
The series — which co-stars Anthony Anderson, and follows an affluent black family struggling to stay in touch with their cultural identity — is the latest hit for the fiercely intelligent, socially-conscious former “Girlfriends” star, who is the daughter of legendary entertainer Diana Ross. She sat down with Las Vegas Black Image Magazine for an exclusive one-on-one conversation about navigating issues of race, how “Black-ish” deals with social issues, and the importance of self-confidence.
When we began publishing Las Vegas Black Image, we received several phone calls from people saying they are going to start a “White Image” magazine. Did “Blackish” encounter similar responses when it started?
I think it was a lot of that in the beginning of the show before people understood what the show was actually about. That’s something that comes up in our culture. The same came about with the show “Black Girls Rock” and the slogan “Black Lives Matter.” It’s similar when we look at the diversity question or things centered around diversity on television. I don’t think we would still be having this conversation if it wasn’t still a problem. We wouldn’t need a Black Image Magazine if our images were equally represented throughout media, the entertainment world, and throughout our lives. It’s really about us finding this balance as we move toward equality. I look forward to the time when that is not the case. So, this is where we are — but in the meantime, we have to have these types of outlets.
Does “Black-ish” address some of the socioeconomic issues in the Black community?
We have done quite a few episodes dealing with different issues … such as police brutality, guns, and finances in the family. The generational issue of men not wanting to go to the doctor has also been addressed through my co-star, Laurence Fishburne, who plays Pops on the show. But that is not the basis of what our show is about — the show is a multi-generational comedy about a family that doesn’t happen to be black, but a family that is black.
You are so confident and self-assured. What would your message be to other women regarding self-love?
Well, I think that confidence and self-esteem, or a sense of self-love, is really something that doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I think that is something that happens in a community of people who support and love you, and allow you to share vulnerability, fear, insecurity, and hurt with them. It requires courage to be able to share that. This is really where the feeling of self comes from.
Fellowship is incredibly important. It is crucial to have people in your life who are further along on the path than you are, who have walked where you want to walk in life. These people can offer you a sense of where you want to go, and support you in that effort. I encourage people to journal their experiences and to laugh. Laughter is incredibly important — especially in the black community. With all the things that are on people’s shoulders, it is not always easy to experience joy, find joy, look for joy, or to think joy is allowed. But we should never forget that joy is a part of creating a robust self-experience.
I really encourage people, even if just for five minutes in a week, to do something that brings you joy. Eat a piece of chocolate or have a bag of chips. Whatever your joyful thing is, do it. I believe that self-esteem comes from esteemable acts. You can’t feel your way toward feeling better — but you can act your way toward it.
What’s the best advice you ever received from your iconic mother, Diana Ross?
There are too many special words to count from my mother. I could go on and on forever and I still won’t have enough time to share it all.