Catching Up With Tracee Ellis Ross

6.1.2010

By Dustin Fitzharris

The star of Girlfriends and Love, Loss, and What I Wore, (and Diana Ross's daughter) chats about her mother, her dream roles, and Betty White.

But maybe it's because they just want to hang out in your closet.
I understand. I do. And tell them they cannot. It's a sacred space! It's invitation only!

What is this closet like?
My closet is not so big. It's not some sweeping, never-ending closet. But the truth is, there is clothing hidden all over my house. There's an archived closet downstairs that holds a lot of my mother's old stuff. I made a rule in college that no clothing of my mother's was to leave the house unless it was run by me first.

Do you have a sign out sheet?
No, but I had issues with the fact that my mom doesn't think things are important. She would just give them to aunts and uncles or whomever, and I was like, 'What are you doing? No! No! That's an original Norma Kamali!'

One of your favorite piece of clothing of your mother's is the white mink coat she wore to open her concerts in 1979. What else do you love?
There's so many, my God. I mean, it's not even funny. I made a top 5 list of my favorite things in the world -- and I will not give you that list -- but I will tell you that number 2 on that list is trying on pretty clothes. That started when I was a little girl. I still do it. My mom thinks I'm nuts, but in the best possible way. She knows how much I love her gowns. Every now and then I go to the storage unit -- because everything is archived -- and I just try on the old gowns.

Wait ' what do you mean everything is archived? How?
We know everything that is there and properly put away with a little picture on the box. I take things out of the box and try them on and take pictures of myself.

What is the best piece of advice your mother ever gave you?
Trust myself and have fun. She's such a good mom.

When you're at the gym or walking down the street, do you have Diana Ross on your iPod?
There is Diana Ross on my iPod. Every now and then I do get a little Diana Ross craving. I have some favorite Diana Ross songs. It's so weird saying Diana Ross. It's so ridiculous! [Laughs.]

What are your favorite songs?
I love 'Confide in Me.' I love that The Land Before Time song ('If We Hold On Together'). It's interesting because it's so much a part of my life. It's almost like the fabric I walk on as opposed to music.

Have you had overcome any obstacles over the years?
Of course! I'm a human being.

As a little girl would you say you were shy?
Oh! Very much so. I was very shy growing up. My shyness manifested as a big personality, as opposed to the wallflower personality. It's been a journey getting comfortable in my skin. I've worked on trying to find the authentic balance between the bravado of my personality that was sort of a defense and the truth within my bigness.

What is the truth?
I don't know. I'm a pretty joyful person.

Well, your middle name is Joy.
Yeah. I don't use the name anymore, I asked my mom, 'Are you mad that I dropped my name?' She was like, 'No, but I did give it to you for a reason.' She said it's OK, though, because I have embodied it, which I thought was so cute.

People probably feel like they know you, but what are you like when you're not in the public eye?
First of all, people don't know. I wish people would come and see the play. I was on the show [Girlfriends] for eight years, so a lot of people know me as Joan from Girlfriends, and they think that's who I am. I am similar to that character. She was a piece of me. But, when you see me on stage, it's different. You see different sides of me.

Besides the one-woman show, what else would you love to do?
I'd love to be on Glee. Wouldn't that be amazing? That's the campaign!

Tags: Television
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