12 Days of Feminists: Tracee Ellis Ross

This year, we’re recognizing the women who showed up, raised their voices and fought for change. Here, Ebony-Renee Baker celebrates actor, fashion icon and activist Tracee Ellis Ross

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tracee ellis ross feminist: Ross in a pink gown with four solidarity hands up

(Photo: Getty; photo illustration: Joel Louzado)

2018 started off a lot like 2017 did: fuelled by women’s rage. But while Trump’s presidency was last year’s catalyst, this year it was the dawn of the #MeToo movement. The Time’s Up campaign, which launched on January 1, 2018 with the backing of literally hundreds of actors, directors, studio execs and other Hollywood players, arguably set the tone for the year—clearly, women were ready and willing to fight. And who was among the many celebs to stand in solidarity that day? None other than lifelong feminist and certified boss Tracee Ellis Ross.

Yes, she has a famous mama (Diana Ross, i.e., one of the most badass musical powerhouses of this era). But she’s had a lengthy career in Hollywood herself. She’s also an activist, size-inclusive fashion designer, selfie *queen* and, as it was made v. clear this year in particular, a F-cking Powerful Woman (TM).

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ISSA BOAT SELFIE ~ @issarae #tbt

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Ross is having a moment right now thanks to her turn as Dr. Rainbow Johnson in the politically and socially conscious sitcom Black-ish, but she has been a role model since the start of her career. From building a career as a successful teen model, proving that she is more than just “Diana Ross’s daughter,” to starring in the hit show Girlfriends—which, let’s be real, was the female-empowering show Sex and the City *wishes* it was—she has always been an example of what it means to be a goal-driven woman on her own path.

My love for Ross’s brand of feminism though, first began when she made a powerful speech at Glamour’s Women of the Year Summit last year about living for herself and no one else. She shared some #realtalk about knowing your worth and how she’s defying society’s expectations of womanhood by chasing success instead of what’s still the expected path for women: marriage and children. Personally, I’d never felt so seen. And since that speech, I’ve realized that every word, every career choice and every Instagram post that Ross makes is done with confidence, rebellion and power.

Aside from speaking on the #MeToo movement, Ross made space for herself in many conversations about women’s issues this year. When it became public knowledge that she was making less than her Black-ish co-star Anthony Anderson, she renegotiated her salary. Can we get a yassss, queen?! Then, at the annual TED Conference in April, she powerfully acknowledged that women are furious rn because of the way we’re objectified in so many areas of our lives—and encouraged women to act on that fury. In September, after Christine Blasey Ford testified before the U.S. Senate judiciary committee at Brett Kavanaugh‘s senate confirmation hearing, Ross walked off of the Black-ish set in solidarity with Ford and other sexual assault survivors. And on a lighter, but still v. relevant, note, she looked amazing in the video for Drake’s female empowerment anthem, ‘Nice for What.’

via GIPHY

This year, seeing Ross use her platform to raise issues that matter to women, particularly women of colour—and, TBH, taking up space in convos that have often been dominated by white women—has made me feel empowered and hopeful. And as a biracial woman myself, Ross, who’s half Black and half Jewish, has showed me a way to be more comfortable with my identity and provides a lens into what is possible for women like me.

Recently, I was on a date at a bar. When my date went to the bathroom, two girls beside me turned over to tell me they thought I was pretty. Flattered and taken aback, I instantly jumped into a convo with them about how we wished women would support other women more often. I left that night thinking less about the date and more about that fleeting moment. I felt so proud to be a woman.

Well, Tracee Ellis Ross makes me feel like that all the damn time. When she shares incredibly empowering messages for women, or encourages her followers to vote or simply reminds us that she too is relatable when it comes to putting on a *fire* outfit, she makes me feel heard and loved. She reminds women that we can be bosses, we can lift each other up and, yes, we can still care about selfies and fashion at the same time.

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BEWARE THE DANGERS OF HIGH FASHION

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Let’s be honest: 2019 isn’t shaping up to be that much better than 2018. But even though we’re still angry, and still have to fight the good fight, we should all take a page from Tracee Ellis Ross’ book and do so while being unapologetically ourselves…*and* doing it together.

More from FLARE’s ‘12 Days of Feminists’ series:

Day 1: Chrystia Freeland
Day 2: Constance Wu

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