Tracee Ellis Ross talks self-empowerment at Chancellor’s Speaker SeriesBy Yasmine Regester, Peacemaker Staff Writer / October 7, 2022
North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University kicked off the 2022-23 edition of the Chancellor’s Speaker Series by inviting actor, director, and producer, Tracee Ellis Ross, to speak to students on October 4 in Harrison Auditorium.
“Empowered: A Conversation About Women’s Rights,” was hosted by Dr. Nicole Rankins, M.D., a 1998 alumna, who facilitated an engaging discussion on women’s empowerment and self-care with the notable actress.
Ross is most widely known for her roles as Joan in the hit series “Girlfriends,” and as Rainbow Johnson on ABC’s award-winning comedy series “Black-ish” and its spin-off series “Mixed-ish.” Ross has received numerous individual accolades and awards including the Golden Globe Award, numerous NAACP Image Awards and special honors by Women in Film with the 2017 “Lucy Award for Excellence in Television,” and during the 2016 ESSENCE Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon with the “Fierce and Fearless” award. She is also the second eldest daughter of legendary singer, Diana Ross.
Over the years, Ross has also lent her voice and influence to advocate for joy, self-acceptance, inclusivity, and equity and joined forces with the Essie Justice Group to end mass incarceration and the toll it has taken on women and families.
Ross stressed to the audience the importance of surrounding yourself with friends that will hold you accountable in life, as well as advocate for you.
“Be able to be in situations where people advocate for you,” she said.
After being known as an actress for 20 plus years, Ross added CEO to her resume in 2019 when she established her own haircare line, Pattern Beauty. With a mission to provide haircare products “designed for every individual on the curly, coily and tightly-textured spectrum,” Ross said she wanted to provide a non-gender specific haircare line that added to what people wanted and needed for their hair.
“The same products that were on the shelf when I was a kid, were still there. And they didn’t work for most of us then. I really felt that people needed access to products that meet their hair where it is,” she explained.
She is also currently executive producing a docu-series called “Hair Tales,” alongside Oprah Winfrey that will feature Black celebrity women talking about African American hair and its evolution in the haircare industry. It will premiere on October 22 on OWN (Oprah Winfrey’s network) and the Hulu streaming platform.
The discussion also included health disparities among women of color, as well as the 1973 Roe v. Wade court decision on legal abortions that was overturned by the Supreme Court this year.
“We all should have the right to make decisions about what happens in our own bodies. Historically, for Black women, for centuries we did not have control over what happened to our bodies,” said Rankins, a board-certified practicing OB/GYN and host of her own podcast, “All About Pregnancy & Birth,” which has been downloaded more than 1.25 million times.
Rankins added that racism, stress, and lack of access all plays a role in Black women not getting the proper health care treatment they deserve.
“We must advocate for each other. Create a health plan that your friends and or family are aware of,” she said.
The conversation then turned to voting, which Ross expressed is the method she believes that can create the positive change people want to see.
“Black women, Black people, we turn the tides. We have that power to change things. If you want different systems, you need different lawmakers,” said Ross. “I find my self-esteem in estimable acts – like voting.”
When it comes to facing her fears in business or her personal life, Ross noted that throughout her life she has curated her own toolbox of sorts, to help her take on each day such as, taking baths, journaling, praying, exercising, healthy eating habits and meditation.
“I get scared. Even with my own fear and discomfort in my life, it’s my willingness to show up for others and understanding what it means being a Black woman at the table, or on the stage, that motivates me,” said Ross.
She added, “I’ve created a bond with myself. I know that if I’m scared, I can show up anyway. I know that if I’m sad, I can still show up anyway.”
At the end of the interview, she answered a few questions from students in the audience where she reiterated the importance of mentorship, surrounding yourself with people who can teach you things, self-empowerment, and curating a life that you love, with a final message to her 20-year-old self.
“I hope that you trust yourself. Gain a relationship with yourself. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Honor your role in this life, not try to live a life that’s anyone’s but yours,” said Ross. “And I would tell her to trust the path that she’s on. Everything she’s doing is a building block to where she’s going.”