Empowered: Tracee Ellis Ross visits Aggieland


Nearing her 50s, Tracee Ellis Ross shared with N.C. A&T students her experiences and words of wisdom at her first visit to the university for the Chancellor’s Speaker Series. The theme for this event in the series was Empowered: A Conversation about Women’s Rights. 

“I hope you genuinely make space for yourself in the world and that you honor your heart. That you [do] not try to live a life that is anyone’s but your own and that you do that in a way that honors you, that respects the world around you.” 

Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins, M.D, moderated the conversation. Rankins is a board-certified practicing OB/GYN, creator and host of her well-known podcast, “All About Pregnancy & Birth” and an Aggie alum.

Chancellor Harold Martin Sr. began the program by welcoming guests and students to Harrison Auditorium, where the event took place. During his welcome speech, Martin acknowledged his wife, Ross and Rankins.

Dr. Rankins, shared a brief story of how she started in McNair Hall, majoring in mechanical engineering but ultimately saw herself in a white coat. Then, Rankins welcomed Ross to the stage, where Ross chanted, “AGGIE PRIDE!” 

Ross opened the conversation by saying she does not offer advice but shares her own experiences.

Being the CEO of Pattern, her haircare line, Ross gave her insight on how her company grew to become successful after ten years in the making. 

“I keep my eye on the prize, and I take the hits when they come, but then I get myself up, I dust myself off, and I keep going,” Ross said. “The truth is what other people think of me is none of my business. Sometimes what I think of myself is none of my business.” 

Ross gave five tips on the things she learned as Pattern grew as a company:

  1. You do not have to study to be a CEO; you have to do the work 
  2. Ask the right questions
  3. Your team is important; surround yourself with people you trust
  4. Language is important, clearly articulate what you want to do
  5. Articulate your mission with language and use the right words

Ross spoke about her journey before fame and how it could sometimes be challenging in the acting industry. 

“My manager called me into the office for a meeting that I was excited about, and told me they were dropping me,” Ross said. “She told me that I always looked nice, I kept my hair done, and I just pop, but I just don’t pop in the audition room.” 

With the overall theme being women’s rights, Ross was questioned on her thoughts on the overturning of the Roe v Wade case. She explains that she was in London bringing Pattern to the U.K., where she expressed her feelings about the decision through a journal entry.

“It is too soon to make sense of something so crazy,” Ross said. “I am very aware that a fundamental aspect of my safety and my freedom have been removed, and it’s not just me.”

Ross discussed her feelings of empowerment, which was another one of the night’s major themes.

“I allow myself the space to be with myself,” Ross said. “My feelings are not facts, but they are the truth of my experience. The key is [to] allow myself to have my feelings, but I do my best not to give them meaning.” 

Ross left the audience with this comment stemming from advice she would give college students. 

“I hope that you trust yourself, gain a relationship with yourself, and you stay intentional about what you want and who you are. Mostly, I hope you are kind to yourself, genuinely kind to yourself as you go on this incredible journey in front of you, and not compare your insides to other people’s outsides,” Ross advised. 

Ross finished the evening by giving details on her latest project, which is making her executive producing debut with the docuseries, The Hair Tales on Hulu and OwnTV on October 22.