Tracee Ellis Ross was born on October 29, 1972, in Los Angeles, California, to legendary Motown singer Diana Ross and Jewish music manager Robert Ellis Silberstein. She attended Brown University and earned a bachelor’s degree in theater arts in 1994.
After graduation, Ross began working in the fashion industry as an editor for magazines such as Mirabella and New York, and the exposure to the industry helped her segue into modeling. Ross was featured in many magazines, landing on the cover of Essence and Jet, among others, and posing for such luminaries as Herb Ritts and Francesco Scavullo.
Ross soon made a transition into acting, and the late 1990s saw her land roles in a string of movies, including Far Harbor (1996, her debut), Sue (1997) and A Fare to Remember (1999). She also took on hosting duties of the Lifetime talk show The Dish for a year (1997) and appeared in a few more movies at the turn of the century, including Hanging Up and In the Weeds, both in 2000.
That would also be the year Ross caught her big break and got a real taste of success, snagging the part of Joan Clayton on the TV series Girlfriends. The sitcom was a success, and the weekly exposure helped Ross get more movie parts. But TV would become her focus, and Girlfriends kept her busy for nearly the entire decade across more than 170 episodes.
Besides being a ratings hit and launch pad for Ross’s career, Girlfriends brought a slew of critical attention to the actress's doorstep in the form of seven NAACP Image Award nominations and two wins (2007 and 2009, both for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series) and a BET Comedy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (2005). In the midst of Girlfriends’s long run, Ross managed to squeeze in some film work as well, including Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls (2007), with Idris Elba and Gabrielle Union, and Labor Pains, featuring Lindsay Lohan (2011).
After Girlfriends came to an end in 2008, Ross worked on other series, such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, appearing in a handful of episodes, and BET’s Reed Between the Lines, on which she starred opposite Malcolm Jamal Warner in 2011.
In 2014, Ross began a new gig as one of the stars of the ABC prime time comedy Black-ish, which became a hit and gave her yet another high-profile role. In the show she plays successful physician Dr. Rainbow Johnson opposite Anthony Anderson, who plays her husband "Dre." The two are parents of four children in an upper-class African-American family. Laurence Fishburne also stars in the series as Ross's father-in-law.
Ross has received multiple honors for her role on Black-ish including two NAACP Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series in 2015 and 2016. In 2016, she was also nominated for a Critics' Choice Television Award and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Musical or Comedy. In her Golden Globe acceptance speech, Ross said: “This is for all of the women, women of color and colorful people, whose stories, ideas, thoughts are not always considered worthy, and valid and important. But I want you to know that I see you. We see you."
She also highlighted the show's role in promoting diversity on television. “It is an honor to be on this show, ‘Black-ish,’ to continue expanding the way we are seen and known, and to show the magic and the beauty and the sameness of a story, and stories that are outside of where the industry usually looks,” she said.