By Tracee Ellis Ross
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. It was long road to knowing, understanding and, eventually, loving my curls.
Growing up, society told me there was a right way to wear my hair and a right way to look. Beauty was definitely not something I felt related to me. As a kid I watched Wonder Woman and Carol Burnett, I listened to Madonna, watched Sixteen Candles, and I saw Pantene and Jean Naté ads. I got the message that I could be strong, powerful, silly, glamorous, in charge and smart; but I also got the message on what was considered beautiful. I did not see my hair, my lips, my eyes, my tusch, the color of my skin in the images in magazines, on television or in the movies. So, I took notes on what was expected of me, where I fit in and where I didn’t. I was very aware of what the standard was and how I didn’t measure up.
Those ideals didn’t match what I saw in the mirror, so I tried to beat my curls into submission— putting body lotion in my hair, sleeping in rollers and spending entire Saturdays at the salon waiting for a blowout. I weakened my hair with chemical relaxers, texturizers and ponytails so tight they gave me a headache. I’m not going to lie—I even whipped out a clothes iron in an attempt to straighten it that way.
Trying to make my hair look “easy and breezy”, “bouncin’ and behavin’” actually had the opposite effect. My hair was broken, damaged, and tired of trying to be something that it wasn’t.
At 15 I finally took the leap and stopped relaxing my curls, thereby beginning the healing journey towards loving my hair. It was a steady, never-ending stream of products, self-education and experimentation. And checking the weather: rain and humidity were not my friends. Even hairdressers didn’t have much to offer me as I tried to understand my natural hair texture. So, I logged never-ending hours in the trenches of my hair, and I became my own experiential expert.
By the time I made it onto Girlfriends in 2000, I was one of very few women who were wearing their hair naturally in Hollywood. Which meant I had to be very protective of the healthy hair I had worked so hard to cultivate. My early days on set were spent waking up hours before call times to do my own hair, and I quickly learned that no one knew my hair better than me and no single brand offered what I needed.
As my platform expanded so did my hair possibilities. It’s now been two decades of building a foundation of trust with my hair and those who follow it. My hair is healthy and able to do almost anything, but up until now for me the line of products still didn’t exist that could bring together all the pieces at attainable price points for all.
So that’s why I was inspired to create PATTERN. This has been 20 years of dreaming, 10 years in the making (I wrote my first brand pitch in 2008 right after Girlfriends), 2 years of working with chemists, and 74 samples later. I can’t wait to share PATTERN with the world—this is a brand that brings together all the pieces that I’ve been looking for: the line of hair care and styling tools that I wish had always existed.
PATTERN was created to bring curly, coily, and tight hair textures to life, to empower others to gain a loving relationship with their hair and to celebrate it for what it is: magic. I couldn’t be prouder of my hair journey and where it has taken me.
Tracee Ellis Ross is the founder and CEO of PATTERN based in Los Angeles. You can follow her @traceeellisross and at https://www.traceeellisross.com/
We’d love to hear more on your hair journey. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured.