Tracee Ellis Ross created a “Work That Body” video similar to her mother Diana Ross 1981 video. She recreated the video as a surprise but read below what Tracee Ellis Ross posted to her website along with the video.
I decided to recreate my Mom’s Work That Body video from 1981 as a fun experiment and a surprise for my mama! And ODE to her! While she has so, so many incredible moments to choose from, this one had an impact on me. At first I wasn’t sure why, but in true “Tracee” fashion I became a little obsessed. I like to study these things until I am clear about what I’m seeing, what it’s making me feel, and why.
I am keenly aware of how we as women (and most specifically women of color) are presented and portrayed in media and how we present ourselves. And here was my mama from almost 30 years ago on the surface doing something that often snags me in videos today but why did I feel differently about it?
Of course it’s fun to watch because its my mom looking stupid gorgeous (she was 36 and already had 3 kids -Rhonda, Chudney and I- by the time she shot this!! I mean, WHAT?!??!?!) and it’s a celebration of music and style and the 80’s. But, there is something more.
I was watching and thinking: why does watching this woman dancing around in barely any clothes with her tush to the camera make me feel joyful and empowered when the same kind of image in most music videos today doesn’t give me that feeling? I know this is my mom… so obviously I’m projecting a connection and I know it was a different time, it was the 80’s. But still, it didn’t feel like she was dancing as a presentation of herself or like she was offering up her bits, which I feel like most videos are these days. Often in today’s images (moving and still), we are being objectified or we objectifying ourselves. I think it is meant to be an empowered act, a reclaiming of our bodies. But that is not always what it feels like to me. I am not intending to judge, just exploring with curiosity.
And then it hit me: My mom felt whole and connected …and in her body in this video. I have spoken before about encouraging women to shift our gaze from how we are seen to how we are seeing and, more important, feeling. And I saw a woman feeling joyful in herself as a whole being; she didn’t seem to be presenting her ass or saying look at all the ways I can make myself look appealing to YOU. She seems to be saying, “this is ME feeling good and I am strong and sexy and joyful in ME”!
So, I decided to recreate the video and try to feel the joy of being in my body while offering up tribute to my glorious mother. Hope you have as much fun watching it as I did recreating it, but most of all I hope it inspires you to find and be in the joy of your own body!