If you’re searching for living, breathing proof that fashion doesn’t have to be pretentious or stuffy, look no further than Tracee Ellis Ross.
The actress’s statement-making outfits practically radiate joy, and at the 22nd annual Accessories Council ACE Awards on Monday, it was much of the same as Ross took to the stage in a geometric Germanier dress and huge Lynn Ban hoops.
It’s only natural that she upped the ante with glitter, sheer panels, and bright fabric galore. After all, she was there to accept the Style Ambassador Award, orange lipstick and Louboutin heels in tow.
“It’s very special. I’ve been a lover of clothing forever. I came out of the womb waiting to go shopping,” Ross told InStyle before she was presented with the honor from longtime friend and Vanity Fair editor Samira Nasr.
“But truly, I think style and the business of fashion has an opportunity to connect, to empower people, to offer joy into people’s lives, and also to break down boundaries and shift culture. I’m really happy to stand on a platform and be able to name that and remind everybody that yes, it’s about beautiful things, but it also is a very empowering force, which is what I have witnessed in how fashion has influenced me.”
Unlike many of her predecessors that evening, Ross didn’t shy away from using her platform (literally, in this case, as she stood at a podium in a room full of fashion elites) to send a message about inclusivity.
“Fashion can be judgmental. It can be elitist. It can be exclusionary. But the opportunity is for it to be used as a tool to connect, to include, to empower, and to bring joy,” she said. “The business of fashion has the power to shift culture the same way that the practice of style has the ability to empower an individual. So I hope that we all can go out there and know that we’re not just making accessories, we’re not just making clothes, but we actually can include and then change our world and shift the way we see each other and how we perceive each other.”
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Ross’s style mantras ring very true, and some of this wisdom came directly from her superstar mother, Diana Ross.
“I learned form my mother that clothes are a uniform for greatness, for glamour, for agency, for power,” she said. “Clothing can allow you to change the narrative, re-frame circumstances, and act as a visual marker for a larger conversation. And accessories are within that,” she told the room as she accepted her award. “I will tell you, I used to stand in a quick change booth with my mother, slammed up against the wall waiting for my job, which was to hand her the earrings to put on once the dress was changed. She would go out anew looking like a new woman who could do a whole new thing in a whole new dress.”
As for her Germanier number that evening, she told InStyle that her stylist Karla Welch actually found the brand on Instagram, of all places.
“[Kevin Germanier] is a new designer and Karla found him on Instagram, which is making me obsessed. Only myself and Björk have worn his pieces, and it’s just wearable art. I feel like it’s elegant but at the same time, it’s bold. It’s also quite comfortable and simple. ‘Oh, this old thing?'” she said to InStyle.
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She chose to pair that something new with something tried and true: her hoop earrings.
“I’m really big on a hoop,” she said. “I love a hoop. I love a hoop of any kind. I love a gold hoop, a silver hoop, an encrusted hoop, small hoop, big hoop, just so many hoops. I literally have so many hoops.”
What’s not to love about that? Style ambassador, indeed.
[MUSIC] My real middle name on my birth certificate is Tracee Joy. My mom said I was allowed to let it go professionally because I’ve embodied it. My natural disposition is joy. That does not mean I don’t suffer from depression [LAUGH] because that comes up to. Got the flip side know what I mean. The national treasure that is Diana Ross is like a dim light compared to who she is as a mother. Mother. And from a professional standpoint I will say that I sometimes think to myself, what did she do and how was that possible. There’s wasn’t a road like it was the frigging 60s. What were you talking about. As a woman as a black woman I think of what my mom Did that paved the way for not only who I am in my career and the career that I’ve been able to have. But who I am as a human being. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO] I remember I was in fifth grade. [MUSIC] I was like, I’m going to make a choice that these people are staring at me because I’m beautiful. I was wearing glasses. I mean I was not this human. And I was like, I’m just going to make that choice, because it makes me so uncomfortable. I don’t know why they’re staring at me. I don’t know if they’re staring at me because I’m black. I don’t know if I’m wearing something weird. I had no idea. I’m just making a choice. He’s staring at me because I’m beautiful. And I think that that goes back to this idea of choicefulness and sort of how you see things, and. I think we’re as happy as we make up our minds to be. I was extremely shy growing up. I don’t think that I would’ve started acting if I didn’t go to college. I was painfully shy growing up. It came out in a large personality. Like, I kept people at a distance by being really loud and funny. I’m all these things. I’m quiet and I’m loud. I’m joyful and I’m depressed. I’m happy and I’m sad. I’m big and I’m small. Like we’re all of those things, and I don’t have to have a version of myself that I think is better than another. And I’m very careful, I’m very mindful how I talk to myself, because then I’m in competition with my own self. Then I fall short of me, I mean that’s a bummer. Please the last thing I’m thinking about is the other person on the red carpet. All I’m thinking about is stay your most peaceful and beautiful if they say smile don’t gently smile with your eyes find your sexiest expression Don’t look like you care, but care. I mean, it’s like [LAUGHTER]. It’s insane. They say you can’t choose your first thought, but you can choose your second. So unconsciously, I would say that my best accessory is my laughter. Which is a point of view that I have. Sort of an ability to laugh at life and myself really. Consciously I would say curiosity, kindness and compassion. [MUSIC] I would want to look in each and every one of your eyes and just sit with you for a second and say hi. And then say ‘what’s you name’? And then I would whisper ‘if anyone tells you there’s a right way to do your life, they’re wrong.’ And may you make them wrong by living your life as only you can live it. [MUSIC] And remember than you have choices. And that you’re not alone. [MUSIC]