Even without big chops and transitions, many of us have been on a new type of hair journey during quarantine as we’ve been forced to fend for ourselves when it comes to our hair, but also explore just how much we’re capable of doing on our own, which has actually been pretty exciting for Tracee Ellis Ross.
“I’m low maintenance, but it’s been fun for me,” the star of The High Note said of taking care of her own hair during the Covid-19 pandemic. “I’ve learned how to do Bantu knots myself. I’ve always been really good at parting my hair so that’s been really fun. I keep trying to do some of the things that I’m not really great at, but Bantu knots I feel really successful at.”
On Juneteenth, her haircare brand, PATTERN, went into phase 2, launching a very timely line of styling products to complement the initial collection of shampoos and conditioners. “I feel like we move from the shower to the mirror,” Ross said of the line of stylers. “Now it’s time to play.”
Walking me through the new goodies, which are sold exclusively at Ulta Beauty, Ross pointed out the mixability of the products which are formulated with moisturizing ingredients like flaxseed and sea moss as well as the versatility of the line. “Anyone who has curly, coily, and tight textures, this is your family.”
Calling the leave-in conditioner from the initial launch the connector between the shower and styling products, Ross explained, “We then go to the curl gel, which is great for a wash n’ go and can also be used for a twist out. It’s got a nice gentle amount of hold, more than the leave-in.”
The hydrating mist, Ross said, serves to refresh and revive hair. “It’s got just a teeny bit of hold, but it’s all about hydration for day 2 or day 3. Also, if your hair is braided and you want to add a little moisture cuz they’re starting to get a little dry on the top you can put that in there.”
Buttery and creamy are the words the entrepreneur used to describe the styling cream which she said is great for those Bantu knots she’s learned to do at home. “I use it personally on my hair when I’m mixing it in with other hair so that I can get my hair to really lay down and move in and it keeps that nice shine on your hair with some hold.”
Source: Pattern / Ulta BeautyHer favorite product from the new launch is the strong hold gel which she admits, “I’m obsessed with. It’s filled with sea moss. I personally love it on my baby hairs — my grown woman hairs that I turn into baby hairs– that’s my favorite one and it doesn’t flake.”
As I prepared for my interview with Ross, I noticed she shared her own hair story on PATTERN’s blog. Learning that her experience wasn’t much different from many Black girls, I asked the 47-year-old how it felt to go from being told her hair had to look a certain way, i.e. be straight, to having Black women become obsessed with her curls, and the answer is complicated.
“You have to remember when I was on Girlfriends there was no social media. One interaction I had, I went to Essence Fest during Girlfriends and I remember someone walking up to me and saying, ‘Girl, you’re on TV. Get your hair done.’ And I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ And She said, ‘Put some heat on your hair. Why do you have to look like that on television?’ It wasn’t until the end of Girlfriends that I realized people were connecting with my hair.”
Unfortunately, for some that connection meant envying Ross’s girl pattern and wishing her hair texture was their own. “I think what was hard for me was I remember seeing a meme, I don’t know if you remember this but I started using the hashtag #HairLove because of it, there was a meme going around with this little girl crying as she’s staring at the shower saying, ‘That moment you realize you don’t have Tracee Ellis Ross’s hair.’ Everyone thought it was funny and it really broke my heart for a couple of reasons. I know what it was like for me wanting to have somebody else’s hair and how it sent me down such a road of self-hatred, of shame, of beating my hair into submission…the rebirth of my hair, when I started to get to know my hair and nurse it back to health, you could chronicle my journey of self-acceptance through that and the fact that anything about me would make somebody feel not good about themselves was really upsetting to me.”
When it comes to texture envy, Ross is clear on where she stands. “This is what I say to that in general: if looking at me makes you feel bad, look away. If looking at me helps to inspire you to find what makes you juicy and joyful, what makes you find the unique beauty of your own self, then let’s have a party. But I personally know that there are people I look away from. I am conscious of who I follow on Instagram or who I mute because if it makes me feel bad, why am I looking there?”
Once you’ve taken that critical step to block, mute, or unfollow, later down the line, Ross said it’s important to then ask yourself what was it about that person that triggered you.
“Look back when you can look back and ask yourself, what is it? What is it exactly here that is snagging me? Is it that I want that? Is it the freedom that person has? Or is it their actual hair?”