BY WALTER OPINDE
Known nationwide as Dr. Rainbow “Bow” Johnson in the hit ABC show black-ish, Tracee Ellis Ross is the first black actress in 30 years to receive an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Comedy Series. “At this age, at this point in my career, to be a first-time nominee is extraordinary. To be nominated on behalf of a show that I am so proud of,” Ross told ABC. “I have not yet gotten married or had a baby, and this is pretty up there on the list.”
Tracee Ellis Ross, born Tracee Joy Silberstein, on 29th October, 1972, is an Afro-American actress, model, comedian, producer and television host. The daughter of actress and legendary Motown recording artist Diana Ross and her ex-husband Robert Ellis Silberstein, Ross began her career acting in independent films, variety series and hosted the pop-culture magazine The Dish on Lifetime. From 2000 to 2008, she played the leading role as Joan Clayton on the UPN/CW comedy series Girlfriends, for which she received two NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. She also has appeared in films Hanging Up (2000), I-See-You.Com (2006), and Daddy’s Little Girls (2007), before returning to television playing Dr. Carla Reed on the BET sitcom Reed Between the Lines, for which she received her third NAACP Image Award.
Not since Phylicia Rashad’s 1986 nomination for her role as Clair Huxtable in The Cosby Show has a black woman been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Comedy Series. Only five black actresses have ever been nominated in the category, including Diahann Carroll (Julia), Isabel Sanford (The Jeffersons), Nell Carter (Gimme a Break!), Rashad and Ross for a total of 13 nominations between them all. Sanford’s win in 1981 remains the only win. Therefore, Ross was much aware of the significance of her nomination when speaking with ABC, saying she was “thrilled” at the nomination. “This whole other layer of the historical aspect is mind-boggling to me,” said Ross. “It adds a whole other layer to this that is extraordinary and wonderful.”
In 2015, Ross’ co-star Anthony Anderson celebrated a similar historical nomination, being the 10th black actor nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Comedy Series. Black nominees in the category have been Bill Cosby (The Bill Cosby Show), Lloyd Haynes (Room 222), Red Foxx (Sanford and Son), Robert Guillaume (Benson), Sherman Helmsley (The Jeffersons), Tim Reid (Frank’s Place), Bernie Mac (The Bernie Mac Show), Don Cheadle (House of Lies), and Anderson, with 20 nominations between them all. Only Guillaume won in 1985.
In 2014, Ross began starring as Dr. Rainbow Johnson in the ABC comedy series Black-ish. The role brought her three more NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. She has received nominations for a Critics’ Choice Television Award and Primetime Emmy Award and, in 2017, won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress; Television Series Musical or Comedy.
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