Having been raised by singer Diana Ross, actress Tracee Ellis Ross has always had a strong, powerful woman to look up to. But the actress recently credited Michelle Obama for inspiring her to be herself.
Tracee, 44, currently plays Rainbow Johnson on the ABC sitcom Black-ish, a character that has been described as a role model in her own right.
In a new essay for Lenny Letter, though, Tracee writes that it was the First Lady who paved the way for her character to exist at all.
Tracee has met quite a few presidents in her lifetime (including Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush), but she thinks the Obamas’ tenure in the White House changed a lot — and that’s due in part to Michelle.
The star said Mrs. Obama had a huge impact as first lady for several reasons. One is that the 53-year-old not only worked in partnership with her husband, but also had her own life and accomplishments. She was a successful lawyer who spearheaded several initiatives at the White House.
But she also served as an example of a smart, beautiful, devoted, and fun black woman for millions of Americans who might not have been familiar with that image from their own experiences or pop culture.
‘Mrs. Obama made room for my character, Rainbow Johnson,’ Tracee wrote. ‘She validated a Rainbow Johnson for people who had never met a black woman with the revolutionary experience of being joyful.
‘A black woman who is not only surviving but thriving. A black woman who is actually in love with her husband — not an image we usually see in American pop culture. A black woman who can be goofy and sexy, who can be smart and empowered and soft and lovable and vulnerable.’
Tracee said Mrs. Obama ‘provided an antidote to all the false representations of black women that have inundated us for centuries — images that don’t represent the reality, or the humanity, of who we are as black people.’
‘And then to have her name prefaced by two things that are rarely associated with black women — “First” and “Lady” — well, it shattered everything,’ she said.
What’s more, she went on, Mrs. Obama’s work as First Lady had a profound impact on Tracee.
‘Part of what Mrs. Obama has encouraged in me is the strength within myself to be myself,’ she said, adding that she was inspired by the way Michelle became ‘sturdier’ in the face of adversity.
‘It wasn’t exactly a blossoming, but a ripening,’ she concluded.
The two women are actually mutual fans. Earlier this year at the Crystal + Lucy Awards in June, the former FLOTUS spoke about Tracee and her show in a way that bowled Tracee over.
‘You are brilliant, you’re hilarious, you’re one of the most talented actors I know and your character on Black-ish, Bow, is an inspiration for folks all across this country,’ she said in a video message used to present her an award for Excellence in Television.
‘And the work you’re doing off-screen is just as remarkable. From empowering our girls, to educating people about the importance of voting, thank you, thank you for using your voice to change so many lives,’ she said.
SOURCE: Daily Mail – Carly Stern