Tracee Ellis Ross ‘Was So Scared’ As a Young Actor With No Experience: ‘I Had Wreaked Havoc on My Soul

Tracee Ellis Ross grew up among Hollywood stars. But despite that, when it was time for her to pursue her own career in the limelight, she struggled with auditions. She found the attention frightening, and she had to find a way to cope with her fear.

Fortunately for her fans, Ross did manage to get past these problems and make a place for herself in the spotlight. And now she’s eyeing new horizons for her future. 

Tracee Ellis Ross’ unusual childhood

When she was born in 1972, Ross already had all the elements in her life to make her a star someday. According to Biography, her mother is the celebrated Motown singer Diana Ross. Her father, Robert Ellis Silberstein, is also in the business, as a music manager. Growing up in LA, with parents in show business, she was prepared from an early age for a life in the public eye. 

In college, Tracee Ellis Ross studied drama, graduating from Brown University with a BA in theater arts. She then went to work as an editor for fashion magazines, including Mirabella and New York. From that position, she moved into modeling. She appeared on several magazine covers, such as Essence and Jet. But modeling wasn’t destined to be her final career goal. 

Her struggles to break into acting

RELATED: Why Was ‘Girlfriends’ Canceled?

In her 20s, Ross realized that she wanted to delve into acting. But despite her early exposure to fame, she had a very hard time auditioning.  As she told Marie Claire, “I was so scared.” Instead of preparing her to be watched, her childhood left her uneasy with attention.

“I was so uncomfortable in my own skin,” she explained. “I was so busy trying to be who I thought everybody else wanted me to be, and there was no space for me. I had wreaked havoc on my soul, and it was torturous.”

Ross said that growing up with so much public attention on her family left her feeling insecure, like “everyone was always watching.” 

Eventually, she was able to push through that anxiety, and she landed a number of small movie and TV roles, before winning the part of Joan on the TV series Girlfriends. But although the show ran for eight seasons, it still didn’t launch her into the level of success she was looking for. 

Girlfriends was canceled during the 2007-2008 writer’s strike, and she again found herself struggling to find work as an actor. 

‘Black-ish’ and beyond

Tracee Ellis Ross attends the Marie Claire's Image Makers Awards 2018 on January 11, 2018 in West Hollywood, California.
Tracee Ellis Ross | Rich Fury/Getty Images

The Atlantic reports that six years after the end of Girlfriends, she found the project she’d been hoping for. She became one of the stars of the ABC sitcom Black-ish. It’s been a big success, and they are currently filming the seventh season. She’s also co-created and narrates a spinoff of the show, Mixed-ish.

Ross has not only achieved the success she’s been working toward in acting, but she’s also come into her own as a star. She’s won a Golden Globe, scored four nominations for an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, and recorded a TED talk. She’s also launched Pattern Beauty, her own beauty brand. 

These days, she’s considering trying her hand at stand-up comedy, as well as singing. She seems to have gotten past her fear of everyone looking at her, and these days she’s enjoying exploring all the possibilities ahead. 

“This is the beauty of it. I’m 48 years old, and there’s so much more to try.”

RELATED: Tracee Ellis Ross Is ‘Happily Single’ In An ‘Intensely Juicy’ Relationship With Herself