Instagram can be tricky territory for celebrities. One unfavorable opinion or controversial image can turn the whole internet against you, so some celebs prefer only to use the platform when they have a film to promote or a product to shill. That might be a smart strategy but it's also a boring one, and leaves us with accounts that often feel too curated or like big marketing campaigns—devoid of personality or any sense of who that person is outside of their fame.
Then, there's the Instagram feed of Tracee Ellis Ross, who not only embraces the platform but also makes it her own. Not all celebrities choose to share their lives with the world, and that's fine; we can't all have Chrissy Teigen levels of openness online. But for every cryptic Beyoncé-like account, there's a Ross who reminds us of what the platform can be for those who choose to embrace it: eye-catching, inspiring, and a whole lot of fun.
The beauty of Ross' account is in the diversity of her posts. Most of her posts can be divided into four distinct categories (we'll get to those in a second), but we do want to shout-out her posts that defy categorization, like the ones where Ross stans her mom, Diana; or those in which she utilizes her platform for social justice; or the ones in which it's clear that Ross is just like us, and likes to take selfies when she knows she looks good.
But now, let's break down what makes up the majority of Ross' grid. First, we have Style Maven Ross. This entire story could be about the actress and her uncanny ability to pull off everything she wears—from monochromatic outfits to tracksuits and heels. She not only wears red sequined dresses with feathered sleeves with unbridled confidence, but she also uses her clothes to uplift designers of color. Like last year, when she chose to wear all Black designers while hosting the American Music Awards. "FOR THE CULTURE," she wrote on Twitter.
Then there's Beauty Editor Ross. She doesn't have an official title, and she's not a professional, though she does have really good skin and an Into The Gloss Top Shelf, which is enough as far as internet qualifications go these days. What we've learned: She's passionate about face "sculpting," she likes a good fluffy braid out, and she's not above having her young niece do her makeup. Let's just say, if Ross were to pivot and become a vlogger, we'd subscribe.
Next, we have Fitness Influencer Ross. Again, she's not posting workout videos to endorse anything or push a "you should really exercise like me" agenda. She's just… sharing her life, which so happens to include dancing around in leggings and trying to "undo some of the Christmas damage." It's especially nice to see someone like Ross—someone with hips and curves and a butt—show off her body with that kind of frankness. It shouldn't be groundbreaking, but it kind of is.
But the best corner of Ross' Instagram is Ross On Vacation.
Vacation posts on social media can be obnoxious, but Ross somehow manages to avoid falling into the self-serving, braggadocious category of posting. Instead, her 'grams feel aspirational in the best possible way. They make us believe that one day we, too, will find ourselves with a wide-brimmed hat, an even tan, a chilled glass of wine, and Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider in hand. But, for now, we'll settle for a soothing image of Ross doing that instead.
My favorite Ross On Vacation post happened just last week. It was a video of Ross dancing in a leopard bikini and straw hat to Lizzo's "Soulmate." She lip-synchs along as the song shouts: "'Cause I'm my own soulmate/ I know how to love me/ I know that I'm always gonna hold me down." The same content done by anyone else could come across as corny, but instead Ross, someone who's talked openly about being single and childless at 46, beautifully embodies the message of the track in a way that feels pure and celebratory. "My life is mine," she's said in the past. And it's empowering and delightful to see just what she chooses to do with it.