Tracee Ellis Ross still likes to play dress-up. During the eight seasons she portrayed Joan Clayton, Girlfriends’ quirky, romantically challenged lawyer turned entrepreneur, she kept us guessing which styles she would sport next. Each week she moved between power suits and bohemian chic, and likewise switched her coif from curly to straight and back again. The 35-year-old actress, whose personal magazine collection dates back to 1983, keeps an “inspiration board” of fashion editorials affixed to her wall. She’s even been known to bestow nicknames on her favorite hairstyles.
“I come from a line of big-haired ladies,” says Ross with a laugh, over a cup of . herbal tea at a West Hollywood eatery. The second daughter of music icon Diana Ross, Tracee says she got her first style lessons at an early age as a spectator in her mom’s dressing room. “I have a great closet of clothes, including some of my mom’s old pieces,” says Ross, who often styles herself and does her own hair and makeup, both on and off the set. “I’ve had pretty consistent taste since I was young, and my body hasn’t changed much, so a lot of things that worked on me back then still work on me now.”
Like her relationship with her signature mane, which, by her own admission, has evolved from frustration to adoration, her fashion sense has become more confident over time. Whether she’s working the red carpet or shopping at an organic market for ingredients for her homemade safflower oil-rich body scrub, Ross prefers to stick to the basics: a bold lip and nude eyes, or vice versa. This spring, however, she’s looking forward to exploring a brighter palette. “I’m a big lipstick girl,” she says, “and I love a great matte color, like hot pink. I’m happy to claim that!” But don’t let the lip color fool you because, underneath it all, she’ll most likely be moisturizing her pout with a bit of calendula salve—the drugstore variety. “I’m a bit of a hippie,” she admits. “I just love beautiful things and I am very feminine…very much a woman.”
Natural Instincts Above, Tracee shows off the more subtle side of springtime—a soft French braid, a clean face with a kiss of apricot on cheeks and eyes. Sun-kissed skin and well-conditioned strands finish the look.
Be sure to pick up this month's Essence magazine with Erykah Badu on the cover and a feature of Tracee Ellis Ross inside!