Diana Ross blessed the world with her immensely successful self-titled album in 1976. The iconic project (which was her seventh studio album) included two No. 1 pop smashes—“Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” and “Love Hangover”—among other chart-topping singles, like “I Thought It Took a Little Time (but Today I Fell In Love)” and “One Love in My Lifetime.”
Fast-forward to July 2016, and it’s a celebration! UMe is celebrating 40 years of Ross’s groundbreaking album with a vinyl reissue, so we felt it was only right that we take a dip into the archives and remind you of eight other times when Diana Ross demonstrated that she was magic.
Diana Ross and fashion are synonymous. She always took bold chances with her wardrobe and her hair. Even her simpler looks were glamorous and represented her superstar quality. We can pull any look from the archives and go gaga from the ’60s to now.
Speaking of fashion, Diana Ross took on the roll of fashion design student Tracy Chambers in the Berry Gordy-directed 1975 film Mahogany, which told the rags-to-riches tale of a girl from Chicago who had big dreams in the world of fashion and worked hard to make them come true. It’s a tale that still resonates with brown girls looking to see positive representations of themselves in industries from fashion to media to tech.
Going solo for many artists is not always an easy decision, even if it seems like an obvious progression, but it takes bravery to actually take the plunge. But that’s exactly what Diana Ross did when she parted ways with the Supremes in 1969. Over the course of her decadeslong career, Ross has achieved No. 1 hits and starred in a few films, one of which she earned an Oscar nod for (Lady Sings the Blues). Sshe has attained a career that has withstood the test of time. At 72, she’s still performing and she still got it!
Miss Ross played Dorothy in the movie version of The Wiz. On the surface, The Wiz may seem like a black version The Wizard of Oz. It is that in some ways, but in depth, The Wiz is actually a revolutionary film that encapsulated the black experience then and now. Ross commanded the lead character, a black girl once afraid to leave her familiar surroundings, who got the chance to get out of the hood and be somebody. The message was obvious: Get up, get out and do something.
For years, Diana Ross had been snubbed by the Grammys, but in 2012 she was finally recognized for her dynamic contributions to music and pop culture with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Sometimes people are late to the party in recognizing greatness, but at least Ross handled it graciously like the boss she is.
Muva Ross had some tough shoes to fill in Lady Sings the Blues, which marked her 1975 acting debut. She played another muva, Billie Holiday, and got recognized for her skills with a best actress nod by the Academy Awards. Ross didn’t win that Oscar, but she proved people who may have been skeptical about her acting (and singing) talents wrong.
Some people were repulsed by the moment Ross jiggled Lil’ Kim’s boob at the 1999 Video Music Awards, but in that moment, many of us saw just how regluh (yes, regluh) Ross actually was. No one can take away her legendary status, but that was definitely a move that reminded you of something one of your aunties would have done if you had the nerve to let it all hang out at the cookout in your sparkly pasty, and that’s why it was a magic moment.
Ross paved the way for many divas to kill it at the Super Bowl. In case you haven’t seen her performance at the 30th anniversary of the Super Bowl in 1996, do yourself a favor and watch it as soon as possible. Not only was she the headliner, but she was also the first female solo artist to top the event. She served up a major spectacle, complete with wardrobe changes, fireworks and a wind machine—and she made her exit in a helicopter. How’s that for a metaphorical mic drop?
Starrene Rhett Rocque is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based freelance writer who often fantasizes about becoming a shotgun-toting, B movie heroine. Follow her on Twitter.