Tracee Ellis Ross recently posted a nearly shot-for-shot remake of a 1981 music video by her famous mother, Diana Ross. The original, “Work that Body,” features Ms. Ross dancing in leotards and pumping iron and singing lyrics like, “Throw our hands up in the air/One foot here/And one foot there/We’re so tight/That’s all right, all right.”
In Ellis Ross’ version, the younger woman emulates her mom with the old video superimposed onto the shot so viewers get a double treat. And when her mother sings about exercising to make up for the cake she ate, Ellis Ross cheekily bites a cupcake, seemingly in defiance of the outdated notion that she shouldn’t enjoy her food.
Along with the video, the “Black-ish” star wrote a post about her motivation:
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? …
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”!
Read the entire post here, and watch the videos below.