Tracee Ellis Ross on Entrepreneurship & Supporting Black Businesses
By Vanessa Etienne
Tracee Ellis Ross has always dreamed of being an entrepreneur. And in 2019 with the launch of her haircare line Pattern Beauty — a curly girl-friendly collection of shampoos, conditioners, gels, creams, tools and more — the Black-ish star, 49, made that dream a reality.
“I wanted to have a business and I wanted to have creative control over that business. And I wanted to be able to build that business so that it would meet the needs of a community that were not being met,” the now founder and CEO tells PEOPLE exclusively.
Though Ross didn’t initially know anything about entrepreneurship, the actress says half of the battle is understanding that your idea has enough “promise” to fill a void that exists. That’s why she’s partnering with H&M and Nikki Porcher, founder of nonprofit Buy From a Black Woman, to amplify Black women business owners by investing in equal access to resources and capital.
“In the last two years, we’ve seen a lot of performative interest in supporting Black people. This is an opportunity to actually do the work to expand the equity and the resources for a group of contributing citizens who have something to share,” Ross explains.
The High Note actress admits that she’s very intentional when it comes to using her platform to support Black women — noting her past decision to only wear outfits made by Black designers while hosting the 2018 American Music Awards.
“I’m a lover of fashion. I’m a lover of beauty products and the beauty industry. So it’s a natural thing for me,” she says of supporting her community. “But I do make a conscious choice in certain places to use my body and my platform and my voice to uplift in areas that aren’t always getting that attention.”
“The world continues to underestimate Black women — our creativity, our ability, our drive, our importance. We are often utilized, but not centered,” Ross adds. “I think that’s one of my favorite parts about having a platform and having a voice out in the world is being able to use it to uplift and, you know, share the attention… that’s part of why this partnership is so beautiful.”
And by launching her own company nearly three years ago — a venture she says was a decade years in the making — Ross says she’s able to uplift in more ways than she expected, gaining a newfound confidence in herself and providing that to others as well.
“As a child, I had no opinions or thoughts about my hair. I didn’t even know it was a thing that I should have opinions or thoughts about,” Ross says. “But then you hit teenage life and you’re comparing yourself to everyone else, and what everyone is telling you makes you desirable or not.”
“I didn’t always have this kind of confidence or relationship with my hair. The truth is, the majority of my hair confidence has come with my products,” the star adds of Pattern Beauty. “I have a lot of pride in my hair. I enjoy my hair, I am tickled by my hair. I used to say I worked for my hair, but now I think my hair is just a really good extension of who I am and my creativity and it can do anything.”
The Emmy-nominated actress believes companies have a responsibility to provide items that “celebrate” beauty rather than putting forth ideas that “you weren’t something and you need this [product] in order to be it.”
The best feedback for Ross? Witnessing others fall in love with their hair just as she did. The multi-hyphenate explains that she’s constantly in awe of Pattern’s recent successes.
“The other day, I was watching some morning show and a hairstylist was doing a slicked back look and they were using my stronghold gel,” she recalls. “And I was like, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ It’s still really exciting to me because, you know, Pattern was my baby. Like I said, it was 10 years.”
“I feel like it reminds me of the beauty— things like that, that’s really what it’s all about,” Ross continues. “So often culture mirrors back to [Black women] that there’s something wrong with the way our hair grows out of our heads. And I’m so grateful when I feel like pattern is an access way for them, an on ramp into loving their authentic beauty.”