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Interview: Tracee Ellis Ross Shares Why She Did Not Let Anyone Touch Her Hair During The First Two Years On ‘Girlfriends’

She also shares how she built a great relationship with her own hair and gives advice to others on how to build the same bond.

It’s been years in the making since Black women have been able to wear their different hairstyles unapologetically in society without feeling uncomfortable or facing ridicule for it. The Crown Act is a California law that was officially signed in July 2019 where it prohibits discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture by extending protection under the FEHA and the California Education Code

As we continue to progress as a society where wearing different hairstyles shouldn’t be a discussion, Hulu has tapped Tracee Ellis Ross to host a new series called Hair Tales, which is a limited six-episode series that will show audiences the journey of connecting the personal tales of phenomenal Black women to broader societal and historical themes.

In a conversation with BET.com, Ross discusses getting to the next level in her career, the hair department in Hollywood, and shares a fun story about getting cornrows from a white hairstylist on set.

When asked what she had to “chop off” to make it to the next level, Ross tells BET.com she had to make space for her insecurity.

“It wasn’t that I had to chop it off; I had to make space for it,” she shared.

“It wasn’t going anywhere so I had to make friends with it. My own insecurity, my own sort of self doubt, and I had to make space for it and not let it run the show.”

Many Black actresses have come out and discussed the mistreatment they experienced onset when it came to the hair department styling their hair, with my actresses having to style their own like Boy Meets World star Trina McGee, High School Musical’s Monique Coleman, and even down to Miss Ross herself. The Girlfriends actress shared how before she touched the set of her hit UPN show, her hair became damaged two years prior while on the model circuit, which ultimately made her have the decision to not have anyone touch her hair for the first two years of the hit series.

“On Black-ish, we had Araxi Lindsey who only grew from there and have had hair departments that not only were able to create artistry and honesty in terms of our characters, but also protect our hair,” she began.

“I have been an advocate for my hair before I got into Hollywood and as a model, my hair had been really damaged. For the first two years on [Girlfriends], no one touched my hair — I did my hair myself because I was so worried that after I had finally nursed my hair back to health, I was going to get it damaged again. My personal experience in Hollywood has been okay, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes — I’ve heard the stories but I’ve seen it with my eyes. Every Black actor knows you better know how to do your own hair and have your stuff in your bag — do your own makeup and have your own stuff in your bag. You’ll leave the hair and makeup travel saying to yourself ‘yeah, that’s not gonna do it.’

She continues with a story, sharing how a white woman was doing her for a project she recently worked on and was “struggling” with Ross’s hair due to not understanding her hair needs.

“I recently worked on a project and a white woman was doing my hair — she was a very good braider, braided incredibly well, and cornrowed my hair really beautifully,” she began.

“Everyone’s hair is different and she put so much product in my hair — my hair doesn’t need that much and you won’t be able to manipulate my hair to braid if you put so much. Wheeew, she was struggling so bad [laughs]. There was nothing I could do, but she made it through but she was struggling [laughs].

In a recent video on her social media, the 49-year-old star is seen blow-drying her brother Ross’s hair in a birthday video post. In the video, you’re able to capture the bond Tracee is creating with her brother’s hair, so towards the end of our conversation, the Pattern Beauty owner lets BET.com know how she formed her own bond with her hair and a piece of advice for others who are looking to develop the same relationship with their own mane.

“I have a great relationship with my hair and I honestly know my hair better than anybody else,” she expressed.

“It's the first thing I tell the professionals that come and the artists that come to work with me — there is no way I can do what they do but no one knows my hair like I do. If we do this together, we are going to win and the journey for me came from really trial and tribulation — it's experiential knowledge. I got my hands in my hair and I played with it and I tried different things and that's how I came up with [Pattern Beauty]. That's how I knew what I wanted my hair company to be — offering what the promise of the brand would be because I knew all of the products that I could not find. I really encourage people, however, you wear your hair — whether it's a weave or a wig, or braids or you wear a wash and go, whatever that is — in the intimacy and in the sacredness of your own time and your own experience, get your hands in your hair and love on it. Love on your roots, love on your scalp, love on your strands love on your texture, love on all the patterns in your hair because your hair is a portal into your soul and the way you love your hair is an expression of the way you love yourself. Haircare is self-care,” she said.

She left us with a word — but you can take this word and gain some more gems when you watch Hair Tales on Hulu, which is available for streaming on October 22nd, and on OWN, which airs on the same day at 9pm ET/PT. 


*This interview has been edited for length and clarity

Ty Cole is a New York-based entertainment reporter and writer for BET.com who covers pop culture, music, and lifestyle. Follow his latest musings on Twitter @IamTyCole.

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