Tracee Ellis Ross on Red Carpet Fashion as ‘Expression of Unity and Power’

When “Black-ish” star Tracee Ellis Ross became the first black woman nominated for a lead comedy actress Emmy in three decades, her style choices carried extra significance. “I was keenly aware that my dress would act as a tangible, visual marker for the larger story — my dress would frame me in history,” says Ross, who cites her “epically herself” mother, Diana Ross, as a fashion influence. “But I get my inspiration everywhere — from trees to art to magazines to history. I am inspired by men, women, music. I am a lover of boldness, courage, freedom and joy, and it all informs how I adorn myself.”

Making her Emmy debut for the ABC comedy, Ross presented with onscreen husband Anthony Anderson. “We were the first presenters of the night so I wanted something that was easy to walk in, not too fussy or cumbersome,” says Ross, who loved the color, corseting and discrete details of this Zac Posen gown. “There was a freshness to that dress that really expressed how new it all felt. I was taking part in an environment that I had dreamt of and the softness of that color and the sweetness of the dress really captured what I was feeling.”

“The fact that I was one of only five black women ever nominated in the lead actress in a comedy category, the first in 30 years, and that there had been only one win by Isabel Sanford 35 years prior definitely carried a very particular weight,” says Ross. Her stylist Samira Nasr helped create this custom Ralph Lauren Emmy look. “I had never had a dress made for me and it was spectacular: choosing fabric, the craftsmanship, the care, the draping,” says Ross. Adding donut-like De Grisogono earrings, Ross felt like an Amazonian goddess, “elegant, statuesque and sexy.” “I felt very honored that the historic nature of my nomination was framed by an iconic American designer,” she says.

The year of her second Emmy nod, Ross says she felt like an award herself in this look styled by Karla Welch. “It was a dream to wear Chanel, let alone Chanel couture,” she says. “And being my mother’s child, I think the dress combined every childhood fantasy of mine: thousands and thousands of beads and feathers.” Following this year’s Globes fashion “blackout,” Ross will think differently about future awards show attire. “What I’m wearing will be a frame for my voice, my work and my being-ness. Clothing on the red carpet is no longer a topic of trite conversation; it’s an expression of unity and power.”

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