For Tracee Ellis Ross, Happiness Is a Bowl of Olives and Her Own Clothes

Tracee Ellis Ross finds life after “black-ish” to be quite wonderful.

Since finishing her eight-season run on the ABC series last year, she has focused on her hair care company, loaded up on speaking engagements and is starring now in two movies: “Candy Cane Lane,” as the wife of Eddie Murphy’s Christmas decorating-obsessed husband, and “American Fiction,” as the sister of Jeffrey Wright’s flailing writer.

And she is dressing herself. Even Ross is surprised by that one.

“I spent eight years doing 24 episodes a year, which is about eight months out of the year, wearing the clothes of somebody who was not me,” she said, calling from her parked car in Los Angeles to explain the importance of hot baths, Black art and swimming pools. “I didn’t realize what a joy and a treat it’s been to get up in the morning and figure out what I want to wear.”

These are edited excerpts from the conversation.



I had a guy I was dating once that was like, “What are those — rocks? Those are disgusting.” I had someone else say to me, “Olives are old-people food.” When I was young, I loved them so much that sometimes I would drink the olive juice. I prefer a green olive. I love a fancy olive. And a treat that I allow myself over Christmas is in olive oil with sun-dried tomato inside the green olive. That olive literally will send me over the edge.


Art by Black Artists

There’s something about the ability within the limited real estate, particularly in this country — the systemic racism, the constant navigation of having to figure out how to find safety, be safe, and also be oneself and find joy, I see all of those intersections in art from Black people. It lights me up and inspires and encourages. And I find a sense of safety and identification that really is important to me.



I love being immersed in water, but I don’t like being wet. Confusing, I know. But there’s something that a hot bath does for my nervous system. I have been in rough times in my life where a shower feels too abrasive in that sometimes when I’m processing something or grieving something, it’s too hard for me to let things go, like a shower. Whereas a bath, there’s a gentleness to it.


Playing Dress-Up at Home

My closet is my happy place. It is where dreams are made and looks are invented. Playing dress-up is something that has brought me joy from such a young age and stealing things from my mom’s closet to all the way now. I collect treasures of clothing, and I wear my clothes and care for them over and over. I love to do it first thing in the morning when I’m still in my glasses, and I strip down out of my pajamas and I just start making outfits.


Matching Sets

Everything from underwear and bras to fingernails and toenails. I don’t do mix-matching on sweatsuits. Nope. It’s a top and a bottom that work together. I don’t know that there’s much to say on that other than I like to be coordinated.


My Bed

It symbolizes reset. It symbolizes a shift in temperament. It is where I can drop all my facade and any sort of performative mask that I have to wear out in the world. I live alone and I’m single, so I change my sheets once a week — sometimes twice a week if I’ve spilled something. I have a tendency to get hot sauce and potato chips in my bed if I’m not doing my olives.


Audiobooks With Memorable Narrators

I am very particular about who reads to me. The majority of the Ann Patchett novels have been read by Hope Davis, and they were just dreamy. I love listening to audiobooks when I am packing, when I am getting dressed, when I am cooking, when I’m falling asleep. Ann’s newest novel is read by Meryl Streep, and my God was that good.


Sheet Masks

I have been known to do up to three or four a day. I think that hydration of the hair, the body, the skin are the key things that keep you youthful and juicy no matter what age you’re at.


Emotional Talks

I love having a deep conversation about what people are feeling. It is what I gravitate to. Not everybody likes it, but I do.


Swimming Pools

To know me is to know I love a pool. When I’m on vacation, I go from work person to vacation person through the pool. I am not a beach person. I don’t love the ocean; it’s not organized enough for me. Too much sand, too much mess, too much. The pool, I know what I’m getting. I’m known for my first dips. I started recording them and putting them on Instagram, and now I’m the first-dip girl.

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