Illustration for article titled A Growing PATTERN: Tracee Ellis Ross Tells The Glow Up About Her Beauty Brands Next Phase
Photo: Sharif Hamza (Pattern Beauty)

“This is a revolution,” proclaims the newest video promo for Pattern Beauty, the haircare line launched by actress-entrepreneur Tracee Ellis Ross in September 2019. Though Ross couldn’t have predicted our current state of affairs when she planned the next rollout of products for her already-cult-favorite brand, the words of the minute-long choreopoem (to borrow a phrase from Ntozake Shange) penned by poet Amena Brown suggest a stunning prescience on the part of Pattern, which will drop its next collection on Friday, June 19—also known as Juneteenth. America is indeed the midst of another revolution, one in which hair may easily be discounted as the least of our issues; but as Ross tells The Glow Up, the fight for the recognition of our humanity extends to our beauty, too.

“I think it affirms the mission of the brand,” she says when asked about her response to the uprisings still in progress across the nation and the series of events that compelled the company to postpone their next launch in order “to focus our attention on the movement for justice and equality.” Explaining that social responsibility was “built into the inception and the foundation of the company.”

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Ross continues: “It’s always felt urgent to me: the celebration of our beauty; being a black-owned business; being an active space where we could see our humanity...Being a business and a company that at its core is about aligning with organizations that support women and people of color and that protect humanity, and justice, and equality, and equity, that’s been at the core of Pattern. So what we are in right now, if anything, for me, it reminded me of the importance of what we do at Pattern.”

While Ross makes clear that hers is a beauty brand and not a social justice organization, the company was nevertheless founded with a philanthropic component designed to adapt to the needs of the moment.

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“We’re not aligned with one organization,” she explains. “As needs change within the community, and times change, and things occur, we can be able to shift our attention so that we are current with where we [are] and what we are supporting.”

Case in point: Pattern’s September launch coincided with support for Kimberlé Crenshaw’s intersectionally-focused African American Policy Forum (with which the brand is still aligned). However, the outbreak of COVID-19 and its disproportionate and devastating effect on African-American communities inspired the brand to pivot focus to the United Way Worldwide for its second phase, based on the organization’s “very specific COVID response within the African-American community,” Ross explains. Citing the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, she adds that specific donations have also been made to Black Lives Matter, Color of Change, Equal Justice Initiative and NAACP Legal Defense Fund—a seemingly broad scope of commitments from what Ross refers to as a “very small new startup company,” but one she feels is intrinsically woven into Pattern (pun intended).

“We are inherently political because at our core we are about and centered around blackness,” she says. “And that, in the context of the world that we live in, is a part of revolution.

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“We’re a beauty company, but when you are a beauty company that’s centered around blackness, there are arms and legs that reach in many different areas in terms of our wholeness. Because that’s what I believe beauty is: it’s about an expression of wholeness and authenticity,” she adds.

Pattern’s already faithful following enthusiastically responded to Ross’s vision; one that was famously 10 years in the making as she sought to create a line that both catered to the unique needs of textured hair and looked beautiful lining bathroom shelves. The brand’s debut was sold out for weeks as fans, followers and beauty junkies alike clamored to sample the formulas Ross deemed worthy of her own enviable tresses. Reflecting on the success of the launch, she explained the meticulous, minimalist aesthetic of Pattern and the niche she sought to fill in an already booming textured haircare market.

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“I feel like I was persistent for 10 years for a reason,” she shares. “The dream started as a personal desire to have products that worked for me that could all look the same in the bathroom…I was like, is there one line that could just look pretty in here? So it started as personal; just really wanting and genuinely looking for products that were not only good for my hair but also made it look great. And then, as my journey continued, as I’ve expressed so many times, realizing that it wasn’t just me that was looking for that. There was a real void out there—there was a gap in the aisles and how the aisles were presented and all that kind of stuff. So I think my persistence—I’m really grateful that it resulted in people receiving it the way it was intended. I don’t know that I was surprised but really grateful and mostly excited that people think the products work.”

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Pattern was wisely launched with a tightly curated collection of products and accessories created to “meet the unmet needs of the curly, coily, tight-textured community with effective and non-toxic products,” Ross explains, “but also to create an active space where we could see ourselves in our authentic beauty...how we authentically are, the wholeness of who we are in our beauty,” she adds. One of Ross’s long-held dreams is Pattern’s ever-evolving glossary (also authored by Brown); created “to reimagine some of the language and terms that have been used to describe our beauty and our natural hair for so long…to give us another place to find language, to find imagery that mirrors back who we are...And also that was built through the lens of us as subjects, not as objects.

“Hair has been at the center of economics and politics and revolutions for black women and black people,” she later adds. “You can chronicle the journey through our lives through hair.”

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Of course, it’s impossible to chronicle the journey of Ross’s life without acknowledging her famous mother—a woman almost as well known for her fearlessly textured, flowing hair as for her immense talent. (Fun fact: When asked as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, unfailingly, my answer was “Diana Ross.”) As Ross graciously indulges us by yet again discussing what it was like growing up the daughter of a cultural icon, it’s clear much of her ethos was influenced by her mother’s indelible presence.

“I think overall, what I saw in my mother I didn’t know how to articulate growing up but I can now, was a woman who was in her full agency and glory,” Ross recalls. “What as a child translated as a lady in a sparkly dress on a stage with hair and movement, as an adult I could see was a woman who was saying ‘this is me’—not ‘look at me’ but ‘this is me’—[she] was a representation to me of what it is for a woman to stand in her power, not dimming her light in any way.

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Illustration for article titled A Growing PATTERN: Tracee Ellis Ross Tells The Glow Up About Her Beauty Brands Next Phase
Photo: Sharif Hamza (Pattern Beauty)

“The fact that the iconic Diana Ross hair is texture, texture, pattern...I grew up within that legacy and it influenced my love of and—within my own family, an appreciation for and the love of the authentic textures of our hair,” she adds; notably, several members of her immediate family were featured in Pattern’s inaugural campaign.

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After launching a teaser collection of hair accessories last month, Pattern’s next drop expands on the beloved collection with an array of new styling products and tools, developed in response to popular demand from devotees of the brand and ranging from $7 to $42. In addition to now offering its must-have Leave-In Conditioner and Hydration Shampoo in jumbo sizes (praise be!), Pattern is unveiling a Clarifying Shampoo which promises to deep cleans remove buildup without stripping away essential lipids; Jojoba Oil Hair Serum Self-Heating Packs ideal for low-porosity hair types—or anyone in need of extra moisture; and a Mini Conditioners Kit to allow the uninitiated to experiment with the brand’s Medium, Heavy and Intensive formulas.

Additionally, Friday will see the launch of Pattern’s 5-product line of silicone-free stylers, including a Hydrating Mist, Curl Gel, Styling Cream, Strong Hold Gel and Edge Control. “What I love is you can mix them with each other ‘cause we’re all our own best chemists and we all do that all the time,” Ross says, boasting that the brand includes ingredients like sea moss and green tea.

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“All of these styling products do the things that we want them to do,” she explains. “But at the same time, they are supporting and loving your hair, so they’re not going to create breakage and they’re gonna continue to nourish and hydrate and moisturize and protect your hair.”

And because styling products work better with styling tools, Pattern is presenting those, too. An Edge Tool will “add swoops and swirls to your grooming routine” while the brand’s new Hair Pick will “lift that crown to glorious heights.” And for detangling, Pattern’s new Wide Tooth Comb promises to be “heavy-duty yet kind to delicate strands” (the trio of tools will be available for $35).

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Has Ross picked any early favorites? As we commiserate on the particulars of caring for 3B/3C hair (both wash-and-go girls, we agree no good can come after Day Two), Ross highlights her new Hydrating Mist, saying: “It’s got like a gentle little hold, it hydrates, it allows you to like, pop back your curls…it’s just so delicious!” As for that dreaded Day Three? Ross has found the remedy in the new Strong Hold gel.

“You know I love a slick-back,” she says, referencing a recent self-styled shoot for Interview Magazine where the Strong Hold Gel lived up to its name. “It takes a little bit longer to dry because it doesn’t have all the different stuff in it that’s bad for your hair. But once it’s dry, you get that nice slick-back but it also doesn’t create breakage and it doesn’t hurt your hair, and I love. And it gives that shine—you can mix it with a little bit of oil if you want, you can mix it with the leave-in or you could just slap a whole bunch on there,” she laughs.

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In all, releasing a new launch amid protests and a pandemic may seem an ambitious offering for a brand less than a year old, but it’s one in step with Ross’s ambitions for Pattern Beauty—a vision the skincare and fashion lover admits may eventually extend beyond haircare.

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“I feel very strongly about leaving all doors open because as we know, the evolution of a human soul moves in many directions, and we are not a monolith—and neither are any of us individually,” she says, later adding:

“I will say for now my dream would be to continue expanding and growing the beauty realm; the wholeness of beauty, whether it’s skincare, haircare. There are so many more areas to go in the area of hair—many of which are already in process...My company is growing now and there are so many priorities, and to continue growing is one of them.”

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This article has been edited and condensed for clarity. Pattern’s new collection will be available on June 19 at 9 am ET.

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, an avid eyeshadow enthusiast and always her own muse. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.

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