By Faith Cummings
Fabulous, fierce, fun—these are just a few of the words we can use to describe the inimitable Tracee Ellis Ross. With her captivating personality, jaw dropping wardrobe, and hair that stars in at least half of the screenshots in our phones, she’s a muse to many and an “It” girl to everyone. So when she launched her own hair care line, PATTERN, in September 2019, we were giddy with excitement and immediately pressed “purchase” to stock our beauty cabinets. And we’ve been restocking ever since.
PATTERN was created to celebrate and uplift textured hair, in all its many glorious patterns. The brand empowers its customers and fans to wear their natural curls, coils and tight textures, as Tracee has been doing herself for as long as we’ve admired her. Making strands “juicy and joyful” is the main agenda, with hair health taking center stage.
“I want to see more brands embracing women and men of color and giving them the opportunities they deserve from the retail floor to the laboratories to the executive suite.”
Everything about PATTERN is a celebration, from the artful yellow and black packaging to the formulations. Tracee and her team have created products that will take you through your full wash cycle—including cleansers, conditioners, masks, detangling tools, a microfiber towel, and so much more. The best way to describe PATTERN is a lifestyle and you and your hair will certainly be living your best lives if you use it.
GET TO KNOW – TRACEE ELLIS ROSS
What was the impetus to start your brand?
My journey in hair care started with my own personal journey to care for my hair the way it authentically grew out of my head. For decades we have been told that we need to change our hair in order for it to be beautiful. There was a paradigm that just didn’t make space for us and how we were communicated to, how we were sold to, how our beauty was mirrored back to us. I created PATTERN to meet and exceed the needs of the curly, coily and tight texture community. PATTERN celebrates our hair, supporting it with healthy hydration along the way. All of our products are designed with the textured hair journey in mind—from packaging to formulas.
Do you have a beauty philosophy? What is it?
I always say if my hair could talk, oh, the stories it would tell. I can literally chronicle my journey of self-acceptance through my journey with my hair. Taking the time to accept, understand and love my hair mirrors the relationship I have with myself. I have grown to love and appreciate my hair in all of its seasons. Because hair love IS self-love.
Where are you from originally? Where do you live now?
I was born in Los Angeles. I grew up mostly in New York but we lived in Paris and Switzerland for a few years. Then I went to college in Rhode Island before moving back to New York. I am a woman of the world. Currently, I call Los Angeles home.
What were some of your first memories of beauty growing up?
I think back to my years as a child, sitting on the floor between the legs of my aunt, Bobby, as she combed through my hair. I remember lining up with my cousins outside of my grandmother’s fancy bathroom where she would wash our hair in the sink, then lather our hair with mayonnaise as a deep conditioner. There were mornings my mom would wake up, put the hot comb on the stove and try and get my edges straight. My hair has gone through so many different phases. It was really fine and like, not a lot of curls, but waves when I was young. And then I started wanting what everybody had which was the downfall. I started going to the salon every Saturday and getting my hair blown out. I beat my hair into submission and it was dry and fried and dead and tired. I did not do a big chop but that was when I started to go natural. And I started to learn my hair. Once I nursed it back to health I was fiercely protective of it. I began to learn what my hair liked and what it didn’t. That was a huge turning point in my journey with my hair.
What are some early beauty influences?
In terms of hair…Neneh Cherry, Lisa Bonet, Cree Summer. And then in terms of beauty, I loved the supermodels of the 90’s…Christy, Linda, Naomi. Editorial beauty was my thing. And then of course my mother, whose glamor, style and big hair influence it all.
What does self-care look like in your life?
I believe that hair care is self-care. Learning to love my hair in a world that doesn’t mirror that celebration has been a form of both resistance and the claiming of my identity, my selfhood, my legacy, my ancestral lines and the history that I come from. One quote I hold dear is by Audre Lorde who said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence; it is self-preservation and is an act of political warfare.”
What inspires you most about the beauty landscape and industry today?
Our community continually inspires me – from their feedback to their ideas and their enthusiasm about what we’re creating. Looking at the industry, I am excited to see a new generation of Black-owned and founded beauty brands, and the retailers investing in BIPOC consumers. Nevertheless, I remain committed to continue to call out the blind spots of the beauty industry and lead the effort to dismantle areas of systemic racism that have locked out Black and Brown people for so long.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?
Well, it took 10 years to get PATTERN off the ground. During that time I was met with an industry that did not understand the value of the curly, coily & tight-textured masses. The biggest challenge was having to educate people about the beauty, power and importance of this vast community of people in need of celebration and effective products.
What has been the biggest win thus far?
Our biggest win comes in the hundreds of thousands of people who are learning to embrace their natural hair and all of the magic it holds. When I see videos of little girls embracing their coils, men oiling their beards, people retwisting their locks and women enjoying wash day, it brings me joy beyond measure.
What would you like to see more of in the beauty industry when it comes to diversity and inclusivity?
Part of my greater mission as the CEO and founder of PATTERN is to cultivate an inclusive work environment by giving women of color a seat and voice at the table—whether in product development, marketing, or customer service. I want to see more brands at the forefront of this, embracing women and men of color and giving them the opportunities they deserve from the retail floor to the laboratories to the executive suite. That’s how you build a successful business - pulling together individuals from different backgrounds to create a beautiful melting pot of incredible ideas that ultimately accomplish your mission at hand.