The latest issue of EBONY Magazine features a television mother-daughter duo looking absolutely exquisite in Keith Major taken photos.
Tracee Ellis Ross and Marsai Martin are dishing on the end of black-ish after eight seasons in the publication’s latest cover. They’re also delving into their undeniable connection despite being 32 years apart while outfitted in ensembles put together by superstar stylists Wayman and Micah and Byron Javar.
This Women’s History Month, EBONY sat down with Ross, 49, and Martin, 17, and delved into their piercing connection. Tracee, the Hollywood stalwart, loves on Marsai, a burgeoning icon for the new Black Gen Z, whom she affectionately calls Caila, the Texas native’s first name (Marsai is her middle name). The former child star-turned-teen mogul attributes her groundedness in the industry to both her real-life mother, Carol, and to Tracee, her on-screen mom, who openly dotes on the young performer in a way that’s not overwhelming or smothering. It feels protective, affectionate and even sisterly; their bond is evident.
See excerpts from their EBONY Magazine cover story below.
Marsai Martin on how black-ish and how having Tracee Ellis Ross as her TV mom grounds her:
Marsai: It’s just blessings all around to be a part of an amazing family that truly cares and supports me and will ride for me in any shape or form. To have so many brilliant, legendary leaders that just organically become your family like Tracee, Anthony, Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis—it’s one of the best things to ever happen to me. I’m beyond grateful. I’ve learned so many things from them. I’m not really a person that asked for advice often; I’m more of an observer. To watch people’s craft, and just see how they work and their work ethic, I absorb it and take it in. For example, with Tracee, I’ve learned to speak my mind more. I’ve learned to be my character more and be more present in the moment. I’ve definitely seen that part from Tracee, because she’s always been just so open.
My own family has sacrificed so much for me; I’ve been able to do so many things because of them. So when you talk about child actors going a different route, with my family, that’s not even a factor. It’s just the way I grew up, the way that they brought me up and the way that they ground me.
Tracee Ellis Ross on Marsai Martin’s family:
Tracee: Marsai comes from really good people. They feel like my family, too, and have from the beginning. My mom and my family have provided that kind of grounding for me as well. It’s where it comes from for me—and yes, my mom is Diana Ross; but my mother, like Marsai’s mom, Carol, is still a mom. And I’m really close with my siblings. When you have that kind of bond that is based on not what you do but who you are, I think the sky’s the limit in terms of your dreams. Also, you will always stay grounded and connected to reality and truth—and that’s what [Marsai] has. I think it’s the reason it’s been a really easy, wonderful bond between us.
Marsai and Tracee Ellis Ross on Marsai growing up on black-ish and using her voice to unpack topics around race:
Marsai: For the first four seasons, I was just a kid having fun. Before black-ish, I was not on a set where I was around kids all the time, having a family unit. So black-ish was definitely the opportunity where I was just like, “OK, we get to have fun.” The playground was the house.
We love that for you, Marsai, that you got to experience joy and fun on set. Janet Jackson recently opened up in her Lifetime documentary about her experience being little Penny on the set of Good Times. There were traumatizing moments for her when she had her chest taped to make it appear smaller.
Tracee: Let me tell you something: I am a mama f**king bear. Particularly in those first few years, I was extremely protective of them as children, not as actors but as children. I advocated at many different moments and spoke up and took up arms as “Mama T” in places and in ways that I was like, “This does not feel right.” Their childhood and their souls are 10 times more important than this job and this show. Those were conversations I had with their parents, and I made myself very available to their parents. I think they all knew they could come to me if they didn’t know how to handle a situation that felt uncomfortable for them—that it was work but it was never at the expense of their souls and their hearts. I would be the liaison for those things, and I would advocate in that way. So I hope that we didn’t have any of those moments that in the long run are left as wounds. [Marsai] says the first four years felt like fun, and just knowing that is so important and means everything to me.
Marsai: Yeah, it was just fun. And I guess the more I grew up, the more I understood my craft.
Tracee: What I saw was that you started to learn how to wield your talent, how to use it, and what you wanted from it. I saw that her parents really learned how not be the stage parents that are living out their dreams through their children but are actually supporting their children in making their dreams come true, while doing it in a safe and fun way.
COVER STORY @genevasthomas
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & SVP, PROGRAMMING @mariellebobo
PHOTOGRAPHER / PHOTO DIRECTOR @keithmajor
CREATIVE DIRECTOR @inrashidasworld
HEAD OF VIDEO/ASSOCIATE CREATIVE DIRECTOR @stevencornelio
VIDEO DP AND EDITOR @thirdandsunset
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER @traceysees
HAIR STYLIST @nakiarachon
MAKEUP ARTIST @joannasimkin
TRACEE ELLIS ROSS:
HAIR STYLIST @naivashaintl
MAKEUP ARTIST @mollygreenwald
MANICURIST Maho Tanaka