Tracee Ellis Ross: 'You Hire Me, You Hire My Hair'

Illustration for article titled Tracee Ellis Ross: 'You Hire Me, You Hire My Hair'

In an essay for Entertainment Weekly, Tracee Ellis Ross talks about the importance of black women on primetime television having the freedom to wear their hair the way it grows out of their heads.


For all the lack of diversity in Hollywood, right now is actually is actually a great time for black women on television, with actresses like Viola Davis, Kerry Washington and Nicole Beharie starring in primetime shows. What's also notable is that they've had the opportunity to ditch the flatiron and wear their natural hair onscreen. Viola Davis delivered one of the most powerful scenes of the year when she removed her wig on an episode of How to Get Away with Murder, as Ross points out:

I think what is important about Viola Davis taking her wig off on How to Get Away With Murder is that it illustrates that there is a mask that women are thought to have to wear. For black women, it can be a more complex mask. Our culture has created a very limited view of what beauty is and can be. 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."

While it will never not be frustrating that black women wearing there natural hair continues to be treated as some sort of revelation, I'm glad that women like Tracee Ellis Ross and Viola Davis are making a point to let people know: this is real, this is us. You might as well get used to it.

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.

Image via Getty.



As a natural hair wearer, I agree with her remarks. Now, granted, I wear my naturally 4c hair twisted into dreadlocks, and I am both a civil service AND and IT drone, so I do have a bit of latitude in my dress code. But I will say that how I got the idea for dreadlocks was watching older Black women that I worked with and near in the financial district to see what they could get away with in terms of natural hair. At the time my hair was badly damaged and falling out from the non-stop heat and chemicals needed to keep it straight, and I was covering up an ugly bald patch with glue in weaves. Not my finest moment.

Then I started looking at the older women around me sporting these beautiful locks and two strand twists in various lengths and widths, and still looking completely classy and respectable. When an older couple at my church started sporting them, AND LOOKED DAMN GOOD doing it, I was sold. I cut off a full head of broken, fried, damaged hair in January of 2001, and have never looked back from that day to this. I have nothing against anyone that chooses to stay straight, but I just had to do what works for me.

And it has worked wonderfully. Long, strong, and most importantly, HEALTHY: