Tracee Ellis Ross and her mother, the former Supreme Diana Ross, have a relationship that any mother and daughter could hope for, and one that may take people by surprise considering Diana’s globally famous status.
Born in 1972, Tracee is the second oldest child of Diana, and the first she welcomed with her first husband Robert Ellis Silberstein. Having welcomed their other daughter Chudney three years later, Robert also acted as father to Diana’a oldest child Rhonda, whose father was Berry Gordy.
But Diana and Robert divorced in 1977, leaving Diana to raise her kids by herself for the next few years, in which, according to Tracee, she did an amazing job.
Talking with Good Housekeeping in 2017, Tracee discussed what homelife was like with a mother who was the face of disco and Motown throughout the 60s and 70s.
“My mom has an amazing work ethic,” she explained. “To her, ‘on time’ is 10 minutes early. I’ve never heard her complain. She was busy going to the supermarket, waking us up for school, sitting with us during dinner, recording while we were sleeping, never leaving for longer than a week so she wouldn’t be away from us.”
“Whether she was about to go onstage or busy having a meeting,” she added, “she never responded with ‘Not now, I don’t have time.’”
Growing up in such an artistic household, all five of Diana’s children have followed in her footsteps in pursuing, in some way or another, a career in the entertainment industry, with Tracee perhaps being the most successful of the bunch.
You may recognize Tracee from the 2007 film Daddy’s Little Girls or from the 2000s sitcom Girlfriends, but probably her most successful work was as Rainbow Johnson in the hit TV series Black-ish, which earned her six Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe.
Tracee credits her mom in many of her own personal passions, one of which includes fashion and make-up.
Talking with W Magazine in 2017, Tracee shared an anecdote about how she used to steal clothes from her mother’s iconically fashionable wardrobe when she wasn’t home.
“It sort of was more like stealing. I’m not going to lie,” she joked. “She would leave the house and I went in her room and looked out the window and saw her car go down the driveway, and I marched myself right into her bathroom and started taking clothes. What I liked to do is put them in my closet and live with them as if they were mine.”
In the same interview, Tracee talked about how her mother, as successful as she was, never tried to force her own artistic values on her children, with Tracee explaining that she gave “space and courage” to her children to live how they wanted to.
“I was raised by a woman who lived out her dreams,” she gushed. “So she’s not living them out through me, or her children. She really gave us space and the courage to live the lives that we want to be living, and to have time to dream and conjure up the life that I wanted to be living. I could really curate or design the world I wanted to be living in.”
“And one of the biggest things then I took from that, for myself, that my mom didn’t necessarily share with me,” she added, “is the best way to design my life around me is actually to know who I am and not live according to what other people think I should be doing, but to have a curiosity that pushes up against the status quo.”
Despite a successful acting career, Tracee also has a musical side. But seeing as though her mother was a pioneer of music herself, she was always “terrified” to show her mom her own talents musically.
Last October, Tracee talked with Today about showing Diana songs she wrote for her 2020 film The High Note.
“I recorded songs, I sang on a stage with a live audience and a live mic, and I do all these big, scary things in my life … somehow when I share the singing thing with my mom, it’s terrifying,” she admitted.
But Diana’s support for her children proved to go against Tracee’s irrational fears that her mother wouldn’t be a fan of her music.
“When I first recorded my songs, I played them for my mom in her car,” Ross continued. “She was crying and she grabbed my hand, and it was amazing.”
Finally opening this part of her, she shared, really freed her own sense of potential and, in a way, brought her even closer to her Grammy-nominated mother.
“Not that I was necessarily meant to be a singer, but by cutting off a part of myself just because I was afraid, I had closed off certain doors to part of my identity and myself,” she explained, “and so things just started to open up when I found my voice.”
Unlike her mother, Tracee has no husband or children, but that’s just fine with her, although she is open to the possibility.
“I think that there’s wonderful men out in the world. I do want a partner, but I want a partner that’s going to add to my life,” she said. “I don’t want a partner just ‘cause.”