Tracee Ellis Ross may have officially launched her Pattern Beauty haircare line in 2018, but her desire to create products for curly hair and celebrate Black beauty was more than a decade-long pursuit.
It makes perfect sense that the actress would become the first cover star of Elle magazine’s inaugural State Of Black Beauty issue.
The digital issue features stories and videos highlighting Black beauty, and it also included a cover interview with Ross that was conducted by her friend (and fellow Black beauty advocate), Kerry Washington.
“All of the things that I was taught from the media were like, I was supposed to have easy breezy beautiful hair. Bouncin' and behavin',” Ross recalled to Washington of not seeing herself represented growing up. “My hair didn’t blow in the wind! All of these things didn't match up,” the Black-ish actress noted.
“There was a void, in both seeing ourselves in our natural, authentic beauty, and also having products that would work for us to do our hair naturally - to wear it the way it naturally came out of our heads.”
Ross shared that she first realized the impact wearing her hair natural made towards the end of filming Girlfriends, the television sitcom she starred in until 2008. Seeing she was part of a larger community of Black women wearing their hair naturally is also what first sparked her idea for Pattern Beauty.
“The journey was a slow one,” Ross, 47, explained to Washington. “Our beauty was not a part of the standard or culture of beauty. There was no real frame to hold.”
Ten years later, Pattern Beauty was officially launched. “The mission is two-fold,” according to Ross. “To create effective products for the curly, coily and tight textured community. The second part of the mission is to be an active space to celebrate Blackness and the power of Black beauty.”
Washington spoke about her own experience with having her hair journey publicized because of her work as an actress. “As we grapple with our relationship with our hair, people witness that process on a larger stage,” she explained.
“I'm really grateful that we, actresses and hair stylists and artists, have all been revealing more of our authentic, natural beauty. That we've made those choices on red carpets and on covers and TV shows. When I see you do it, it makes me want to do it more,” Washington said. “Whether it's protective styles, or curly styles, or whatever it is - the more that we make room for ourselves, we make room for each other. And that, in turn, reverberates out into community.”
Ross agreed, recalling how the expectations for how she should wear her hair have shifted. “Growing up, we all went through this experience, where straight hair was your dressed-up hair. The blowout, silky-whatever meant you became more presentable, more appropriate. I see such an evolution on that narrative and I'm so grateful for it,” she said, later adding, “Black women and our hair have been at the center of social, cultural, political, and economic revolutions and movements through time. We hold so much power in our beauty.”