• Golden Globe Awards

Tracee Ellis Ross on “Black-ish”

For many years now, Tracee Ellis Ross has succeeded in stepping out of the shadow of her pop superstar mom, Diana Ross. Ellis Ross never had any trepidations about also getting into entertainment because she had a clear plan.
In a 2016 interview with the HFPA, Ellis Ross said, “I just consciously went in a different direction. I think maybe if I sang, I would have had trepidations.”
Born on October 29, 1972, in Los Angeles, Ellis Ross grew up with both parents in the music business. Dad is Robert Ellis Silberstein, a Jewish-American music executive who was married to Diana Ross from 1971 to 1977.
When Diana married European shipping magnate Arne Naess, Ellis Ross and her siblings lived and studied in Switzerland. She has two half-brothers from Diana’s marriage to Naess – Ross and Evan, a singer-actor.
In 1994, Ellis Ross graduated with a theater degree from Brown University which awarded her an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree in 2015. She started to model in her teens, then worked as a contributing fashion editor at the New York magazine Mirabella. Branching into TV, Ellis Ross racked up credits, including playing Joan Clayton in UPN/CW series, Girlfriends, and hosting Lifetime’s The Dish.
In 1996, Ellis Ross landed her film debut part in Far Harbor but her first major studio role was in Hanging Up. The actress’s biggest success in television came via the ABC comedy series, Black-ish, which premiered in 2014.
Playing Dr. Rainbow Johnson opposite Anthony Anderson in Black-ish, Ellis Ross won her first Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy in 2017. She is nominated again for Black-ish in the same category for the 79th Golden Globes.
On playing a doctor, a Black female partner in the hospital where she works as an anesthesiologist, wife and mother in Black-ish, Ellis Ross said, “I really get to bring so much of my life experience of playing a woman who is mixed and comes from a different background than her husband on the show. I really get to bring that diverse point of view, having lived in the world and of the world.
“It’s all these different things and how is this family interacting with each other in that way. So being my mom’s child and being of mixed heritage – my father is white and my mother is Black – and to be able to play that on television and also bring the power that I was raised with, to know that I have a full life as a woman and that as a wife, you are not just the wife cooking in the kitchen.”
In the 2020 film The High Note, Ellis Ross, playing the part of Grace Davis, a superstar singer, she sang on camera for the first time. In a 2020 Zoom interview with the HFPA, Ellis talked about the role opposite Dakota Johnson, who portrayed her singer character’s personal assistant.
“I would say that the most challenging thing for me, once I was beyond the fear of singing – I moved through that – was, how was I going to look like I had been performing on stage for decades?”
To complete her jump as a singer, Ellis Ross released her first single, Love Myself, from the soundtrack of The High Note.
Also, a successful businesswoman, Ellis Ross is the founder and chief executive officer of Pattern Beauty, which has a line of natural hair products.
Ellis Ross credited her mom for teaching her to have a good work ethic. “To be a woman who had dreams, I knew that I could go after them if I worked hard enough.”
Asked if she could ever imagine playing her mother on screen, she laughs loudly and exclaims, “Wouldn’t that be weird?!”