Tracee Ellis Ross: ‘I am small for people and big for an actress’

68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards
Blackish star Tracee Ellis Ross has a new interview with People Magazine on fashion. I feel like an idiot for not knowing that Ross, 44, is Diana Ross’s daughter, but she is and she talks about going through her mom’s closet as a child. She also worked as a stylist after she went to college (She has a theater degree from Brown) and seems to have a love and appreciation for style. Ross’s red carpet style is… experimental at times in that she takes risks and doesn’t always succeed, but you can tell that she carefully considers her looks and sometimes they’re striking. Ross is getting the most attention for saying she’s not a sample size and that she has her favorite jeans in three different sizes to make sure she always has the right pair when she fluctuates:

“I’ve always been connected to the narrative of clothing,” she says. “My mom taught me that you can spend money on nice things if you’re going to use them. For example, I have an Alexander McQueen jacket that I wear with everything, even sweatpants.”

One of the things she has also learned over the years is stop obsessing over her size.

“You know, I am not a sample size,” she says. “I am not a model size. I am small for people and big for an actress. My weight fluctuates a lot and I move with it. It is what it is. That’s why I try not to have a relationship with the size that I am.”

And she deals with the change in her own unique way. “I actually own my favorite jeans in three sizes—28, 29 and 30,” she explains.

“Depending on how I feel, I always start with the big ones and if I get to go down, great,” she says. “It’s the same thing with dresses and clothing. I want to wear something that makes me feel gorgeous, not that makes me feel self-conscious about my body. Hiding insecurities or putting attention on the stuff that feels good is really the key…”

Ultimately, though, when it comes to picking out her looks, she says “there’s no real method to my madness.” All she does, she says, is “ask what is the best thing out of my closet or the best thing on the rack that makes me feel good and fits.”

[From People]

The sample size comment may sound irrelevant to us non-celebrities, like who cares if you’re a sample size, that’s so tiny. The stylists get so many dresses and outfits in sample sizes, which are about a size two, that there’s a real pressure for celebrity women to get down to that so that they fit into dresses for events. Some designers, like David Meister, Tadashi Shoji and Christian Siriano, have offered celebrity women more options for red carpet gowns, but they’re the exception. There’s been some chatter about changing the sample sizes to be larger to reflect the population and not put pressure on the most visible women to be that thin, but it’s doubtful that will happen. So I like Ellis’s message that she focuses on the positive and that she isn’t fixated on her size. It can’t be easy to come to that realization in her profession.

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39 Responses to “Tracee Ellis Ross: ‘I am small for people and big for an actress’”

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  1. Danielle says:

    I really like her. She’s awesome on blackish and she seems very down to earth for growing up with a famous mother. I also like her comments about being small for a person but big for an actress, reminds us to not compare ourselves to actresses, they are very tiny!

    • Locke Lamora says:

      Yeah, she seems so smart and down to earth, which is really remarkable ( and very rare) considering how famous her mother is/was.

    • ctgirl says:

      She always strikes me as the really cool girl who owns everything about herself. I really like that she is striking looking rather than classically/boring pretty, that she has a proportional body and isn’t a toothpick with a lollipop sized head and that she lets her hair go big. She’s gorgeous in her own skin and doesn’t give a rip about being part of the pack.

  2. Matador says:

    Love her. She also worked at Mirabella, and was one of the best guest judges in PR history.

    • lightpurple says:

      Yes! I was going to post that too. She was one of the most knowledgeable judges with really good commentary on Project Runway.

    • Kori says:

      I was going to say that too! She needs on every season. And she seemed so nice too. Great smile. I think she’s very attractive.

  3. Aiobhan Targaryen says:

    I have loved her since Girlfriends, which was a criminally underrated show that deserved a better series finale than it got.

    What she says about size is similar to what Khloe said in yesterday’s article: being happy in your skin is more important than the size of the dress or pants. It is the best way to go through life. Plus, it coming from Tracy comes off as more authentic and thoughtful.

    • jugstorecowboy says:

      Girlfriends! That was a good show. She’s great, just wanted to get a comment in on someone that doesn’t make me nauseous (like another post today)…

    • Betsy says:

      I loved Girlfriends, too. I can’t look at Ms. Ross or Golden Brooks without hearing that time they were bickering about whether or not Ms. Ross’s character was “classist and egregious.”

    • V4Real says:

      I loved Girlfriends too. A lot of people didn’t know that Kelsey Grammar produced that show.

      Blackish is funny as he’ll too. A little trivia; Anthony Anderson once worked as a stripper before breaking into the business as a commedian.

    • I Choose Me says:

      Me too. I freaking loved that show. Her character bugged sometimes but I’ve never not loved Tracee Ellis the person. Her hosting of the BET Black Girls rock where she performed as Janet, Queen Latifah and as Beyonce still give me life.

    • Bes says:

      Loved that show! Totally agree that it was criminally underrrated. So many unforgettable episodes!

    • Tanya says:

      Love, loved, loved Girlfriends.

  4. ell says:

    she’s looks beautiful, she has a lovely figure.

  5. Kate says:

    The conversation around celebrities free dresses bugs me. It’s like everyone’s forgotten these celebrities are completely free to just go buy their own dresses.

    Top tier designers make custom dresses for A-listers whose fashion choices get a lot of attention. It’s not a requirement or a gesture of goodwill, it’s business. They spend a lot of time and money on the dress/fittings/labor etc. and in return get fantastic advertising.

    Once you start talking about TV stars, B-list movie actresses and actresses who rarely feature in fashion round-ups or attend big events, the prestige of the advertising drops right off. It’s not worth custom making or gifting hundreds of expensive dresses that could otherwise be sold, unless you’re a designer like Siriano who makes very basic designs in ultra cheap fabric.

    Samples have multiple uses. They aren’t made for celebrities, that’s a secondary usage. Since the designers already have them made, why not give them to some celebrities who fit into them?

    No one is being forced to fit into anything. There’s no rule that says you can only wear a free dress on the red carpet. If you aren’t a major celebrity with some fashion cred or prestige, and you aren’t lucky enough to fit in the cast-off’s, then just buy something. It doesn’t have to be a big thing.

    • Chingona says:

      I think the issue isnt about actresses wanting free dresses and why don’t they just go buy it. It is about women in Hollywood who don’t fit the mold like women of color or women who aren’t a size 0, have designers who refuse to work with them because of it. I am talking about actual headlining actresses who have highly successful tv shows or award winning movies.

    • littlemissnaughty says:

      I get what you’re saying but if it’s work related, why should they have to buy their own clothes for events? Studios want them to promote their work and whether we like it or not, fashion has become a part of it. It makes everyone involved look good. The movie might be crap but hey, attention was paid because did you see what she wore?

      There’s a difference between promoting themselves and promoting their work though. But for press tours etc.? It’s part of the job and they can’t really recycle.

      In general I would say sample sizes are something that needs to be talked about. Because by your logic, why not make them kiddie size so that only a handful of models can fit into them? After all, celebrities can buy their own. But then the designers lose the free advertisement. It’s about projecting an image. They don’t want normal-sized people wearing their clothes unless they’re super A-list.

    • Char says:

      That’s not completely true that no one is being forced to fit into anything. Portia De Rossi talks in her book about how her eating disorder got started when she became so self conscious about her size because she went to do a photo shoot & literally nothing they brought for her fit & she was only a size 6 at the time. She got really upset & her manager (I think that was who was with her) told her to just lose some weight. Now you would think if someone set up a photo shoot with a celebrity they’d get their sizes first, but they brought clothes that fit all the other celebrities, so it “should have” fit her.

      • LAK says:

        I don’t want to call an ED victim is lying BUT i think Portia is being less than honest. She was on a very size competitive show, Ally Macbeal, which had a petite actress as the lead who made all the other actresses look like enormous standing next to her.

        Every single actress on that show went on a drastic weight loss diet that they all took too far.

        The RC straight from a catwalk trend was kicked off by Uma Thurman’s spectacular turn at the Oscars in a custom made Prada. Prior to that year, designers were not that big a deal and the RC wasn’t a business. Nicole Kidman took it further by pulling a dress straight off the prior week’s Christian Dior show in Paris.

        After that everyone clammered to do the same. In order to fit the sample sizes created for the catwalk, the actresses have to be as thin as the catwalk models.

        It’s a truth in fashion that catwalk models are ALWAYS thinner than editorial models. Models who do both tend to serve the needs of the catwalk over editorial. See VS models going on special diets in the weeks leading upto the show, and adding the weight back on after the show.

        Actresses trying to fit a standard that was already unusual even in fashion is not the fault of designers and everything to do with hollywood greed.

        ….but Portia is conveniently forgeting the competitive dieting on the Ally Mcbeal set.

      • Kori says:

        Courtney Thorne Smith talked about it. I think it may have been why she left or at least a part. She lost a bunch of weight at one point too.

    • Goldie says:

      I agree with most of the responses to the OP. I’ll also add that it doesn’t even sound like Tracee was complaining about not being able to wear the samples. She simply matter-a-factly stated that she’s not “Hollywood thin”. She seems to have a healthy perspective on weight.

    • Radley says:

      I think the larger takeaway here should be that the ultra thin trend should come to a merciful end. Designers should be a part of that. Many designers design for “coat hanger” bodies, meaning very thin and mostly free of curves. That type, they feel, is the best showcase for their work. I say if you’re unable to design flattering clothes for 95% of the female population, maybe you’re overrated. Maybe you’re not that talented. Maybe the fashion world should step their game up.

      It’s ridiculous to shift the conversation away from this draconian, anti-woman design aesthetic to rich celebs should buy their own. That, in my opinion, is not the point.

      • velourazure says:

        Spot on.

        And as the average population gets bigger and bigger, this coat hanger body ideal seems more and more out in left field. I know designers don’t design for or want to sell to the masses, but their “ideal” clientele is a shrinking demographic.

  6. Eva says:

    Her wardrobe on Blackish is really good too! I like her a lot and had no idea she’s Diana’s daughter. Wow! No wonder she’s amazing.

  7. Lucy says:

    The fact that the designers who dress women of all shapes and sizes are the exception to the point in which we can count them with one hand is a problem.

  8. Malibu Stacy says:

    Honk for Tracee! She’s amazing and has such great style. She seems really grounded and has such an interesting career. Love her!

  9. Who ARE These People? says:

    I can’t believe Diana Ross has a 44-year-old daughter. When did this happen? : 0

    Wish my budget and closet could accommodate having two different sizes of things – that would solve a lot of problems!

  10. Angel says:

    I cavy believe she’s not married – beautiful, downtoearth/ funny and rich – she should be snatched up!

  11. Hazel says:

    Tracee Ellis Ross is gorgeous & terrific on blackish. When I first saw her on the show, with that last name & those eyes, I thought, wait a minute, could she be—? I googled her & sure enough, she’s Miss Ross’s daughter. Now I’m a huge fan of both women.

  12. tracking says:

    I do the exact same thing, jeans in those 3 sizes and, whichever fits, fine. So long as one of them does, I’m good (otherwise I’d have no pants). It’s so freeing not to obsess about fitting into the smallest of them any more.

    Love her, she’s the best thing about Black-ish. Can anyone recommend Tracee-centric episodes? I don’t love her co-star, but always enjoy watching her.

  13. poppy says:

    she is awesomeness

  14. Jimmy Kimmy says:

    Have loved her for years. She is a true style icon!

  15. Pandy says:

    Love Blackish and she’s a HUGE part of that ensemble. I think she seems like someone who could be a friend in the real world … I love what she said about jeans in three sizes … If I had the dough, I would do the same. Smart!

  16. Elizabeth says:

    You gotta see her in a movie called “Sue,” from the 90s. She had a supporting role but stood out big time. She is amazing.

  17. Tanya says:

    I love Tracee. I’m glad she speaks her mind on the sorry state of fashion and Hollywood in regards to realistic sizing.

  18. Kori says:

    She played Laurence Fishburne’s ex on CSI and is now his daughter in law on Blackish 🙂

  19. Laura says:

    I have always thought that Tracee Ross was both talented and beautiful! Despite being raised by a massively famous mother, she has always come across as down-to-earth, intelligent, honest, and humble. I really enjoyed her in the series “Girlfriends”!