On Thursday, Elle.com introduced its inaugural installment of The State of Black Beauty, a franchise the publication describes as "an ongoing exploration of — and destination for — beauty at the intersection of Black culture." For its debut, Tracee Ellis Ross stars in a series of (frankly, stunning) images photographed by Djeneba Aduayom and styled by Shiona Turini. Ross also speaks candidly on the subject of Black beauty and the mission behind her own hair-care company, Pattern, in an interview with Kerry Washington. (The duo met via Zoom, just days before their individual appearances hosting the Democratic National Convention, a press release from Elle.com notes.)
Ross's photo shoot was led by an all-Black team, including aforementioned photographer Aduayom and stylist Turini, as well as hairstylist Araxi Lindsey. Ross provided the creative direction for the shoot and also did her own makeup, just in case it wasn't already clear how multi-talented she is.
Of the mission behind Pattern and the importance of its existence in the beauty market, Ross tells Washington: "It started as such a personal relationship with my own hair, and feeling like I didn't have the support to find what I needed. Not just in terms of products, but in terms of how to love myself.... There was a void, in both seeing ourselves in our natural, authentic beauty, and also having products that would work for us to do our hair naturally — to wear it the way it naturally came out of our heads."
It's precisely these types of conversations — and so much more — that Elle.com's State of Black Beauty will continue to explore, striving to bring much needed visibility to Black beauty in mainstream media. Elle.com Beauty Director Chloe Hall, along with Nerisha Penrose and Angel Lenise, has created a recurring franchise that will continue to spotlight Black beauty creators and celebrate the complex beauty of Blackness.
"The thing about Black beauty is that it is infinite. There is no limit to the stories that can and should be told. They cannot be contained in a single issue or month in the calendar year," writes Hall in her introduction to the franchise. "This is our commitment: Black beauty is and will be at the center of everything we do at Elle.com. We will launch the visuals, stories, videos, audiograms, letters, and covers dedicated to our community. As editors, writers, producers, friends, and sisters, it’s our job to keep telling these stories and using our platform to amplify our stories and the stories of our community."
In addition to Ross's feature, the inaugural State of Black Beauty issue also showcases audio testimonials from real women speaking about microaggressions they've faced because of their hair styling choices. In another feature, Mariel and Katherine Tyler — professionally known for their portrait photography as The Tyler Twins — share a photo essay of the 2020 Bronner Bros. Beauty Show, an annual event showcasing Black hair's beauty since 1947.
For more on Elle.com's State of Black Beauty, read Hall's full introduction here. In the gallery below, see all of the images from Ross's Elle.com photo shoot.