Throwback Thursday: A Preteen Tracee Ellis Ross Tagged Along With Mom Diana to Glitzy Events

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From left: Tracee, her mom, Diana Ross, and sisters Rhonda and Chudney at Radio City Music Hall in 1984.

"She has her own guiding light," Diana Ross tells THR of her daughter's decision to pursue acting over music. "She knows where she wants to be and how she wants to be treated in her life."

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

For most children, the typical bedtime routine might consist of toothbrushing and story time. For Tracee Ellis Ross, it included phone calls with Michael Jackson. That and being painted by Andy Warhol were all part of growing up the daughter of Motown legend Diana Ross. Raised by the music icon and Robert Ellis Silberstein, who managed Chaka Khan in the 1970s, Ross didn’t follow in her parents’ footsteps in pursuit of a music career. Instead, she earned a theater degree from Brown University and did some modeling before landing her first major role in 2000 as uptight lawyer Joan on the UPN comedy series Girlfriends — a part originally intended for another actress.

"I wrote the Joan character hoping and praying to cast Regina King," Girlfriends creator Mara Brock Akil tells THR today. "[But] Tracee came in and she blew me away from start to finish. … She could make you laugh and cry, sometimes even in the same scene. Some people can’t do that in their entire career, and she did it in her breakout role."

THR lauded the eight-season series — an immediate hit with the network’s primarily black audience — calling it "a bright, sassy, sexy venture" that "boasts a universal appeal that might broaden UPN’s viewer spectrum." Ross, 42, since has worked her way to ABC’s highest-rated new comedy, Black-ish, an early Emmy contender that averaged a diverse pool of 9.6 million viewers its first season. Her own upbringing as the daughter of a black mother and a white father mirrors that of her onscreen character, Rainbow, a mother of four raised by a black mother and white father. Says Diana Ross of her daughter: "She has her own guiding light. She knows where she wants to be and what she wants to be and how she wants to be treated in her life. I’m very proud of the woman she has become."

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