Tracee Ellis Ross, star of Black-ish and overall goddess, tells Entertainment Weekly that television is starting to embrace black beauty and natural black hair. She says, “I think right now television is one of the places where women are pushing up against that and saying, ‘You know what? I don’t need to play this game anymore in order to be considered beautiful.’”
Ross is referring to recent moments on television shows — mostly on ABC — that realistically show the full range of black women’s hair. For example, when Viola Davis, as Annalise Keating on How to Get Away With Murder, regularly reminds us that her chic, sleek pixie is a wig, and reveals her natural cropped hair underneath. (In one episode, there’s even a doobie wrap at bedtime. How’s that for realism?)
It’s wonderful that networks realize that as they cast black actresses in lead roles, there needs to be an embrace of black beauty standards instead of expecting their stars to kowtow to unrealistic notions of what is beautiful — not every day is a blowout day, especially when you’re Olivia Pope living on a remote island without a blow dryer or a care in the world, or, like Ross’s character on Black-ish, a doctor and mother of four.
I think it’s huge that I’m wearing my natural hair texture on ABC in prime time. As Dr. Rainbow Johnson on black-ish, I think my hair is part of the reality of this woman’s life. She has four children and is an anesthesiologist and a wife. She doesn’t have a lot of time to fuss with beauty, so her look is pretty simple. I’m very conscious of how I wear my hair on the show, and yet it’s the way I wear my hair as Tracee. You hire me, you hire my hair and you hire my ass. It’s all coming with me.