Tracey's Gold
by Lori Latusek
Soap Opera Digest
October 23, 2007

She's tasted greater fame, but Tracey Ross finds more value in the life PASSIONS affords her

Just the facts:

Birthday: February 27

People say she looks like: "Vanessa Williams and Whitney Houston. When I was on Star Search, Dionne Warwick said to me, 'Oh my God! You look like Whitney!' I used to get Faye Dunaway when I was young. I guess my bone structure was like hers."

On former co-star Amelia Marshall (ex-Liz): "When you're an actress of her caliber and kind to everyone and plan Christmas parties and celebrate everyone's birthday and know your lines and are the most darling girl that ever breathed, of course you're going to be fired!"

Lesson learned: "Ben [Masters, Julian] says, 'Don't plan any Christmas parties!' The year after Kathleen Noone [ex-Edna] and Kelli [McCarty, ex-Beth] planned a Christmas party, [they were] gone! The surest way to get off this show is to plan a Christmas party [laughs]."

On winning a 2007 NAACP Image Award: "I want to thank Victoria Rowell [ex-Drucilla, Y&R] from the bottom of my heart for not submitting herself [laughs].

On being an empty nester: "All the actors bring their kids and I just want to take them away. I want to make them mine. I wouldn't give Liza [Huber, Gwen] back her baby!"

"I was incredibly famous for what I had actually done," chuckles Tracey Ross (Eve) as she reflects on the early days of her career, when in 1984 she became the first $100,000 winner in the spokesmodel category on Star Search. A standing ovation after being crowned champion was just the beginning for sudden celeb Ross. Hordes of fans wanted her autograph ("I remember running across Central Park with a crowd of kids chasing behind me and I was actually scared"), women sported the "Tracey Ross bob" and men dressed up like the 5-feet-10 beauty. Yes, men.

"I used to be able to go into a drag club," she says, "and there would be Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli [impersonators] and the Tracey Ross person would come onstage - and not because I was there, it was just part of the act!"

Ross quickly learned that being so well-known was not her cup of tea. "I thought I wanted to be famous, but after Star Search, I thought, 'If what I've gotten is one-hundredth of what [really famous people] get, it's too much for me,' she shares. "It's too intense, too intimidating. I could never deal with or want real fame, like Tom Cruise and Angelina Jolie. My little, tiny taste tells me it's not for me. It's nice to have had a lot of my little dreams come true and then find out they were things that really don't fit my personality," she muses. "It was a great learning experience."

Even without it, Ross chuckles, "I think I would probably be on Passions right now." She's called the show home since its inception in 1999 and when it made the leap from NBC to DIRECTV, she was quick to leap with it - once they asked her. "When it was picked up, I said, 'That doesn't mean I'm picked up.' Ben [Masters, Julian, her real-life love] and I would count off who we thought were sure things. 'Definitely [Lindsay Hartley's] Theresa and Galen [Gering, Luis].' I would say, 'Definitely you,' and he would go, 'No, definitely Dr. Russell.' He didn't think they were going to call him back and I didn't think they were going to call me back, but he thought they'd call me and I thought they'd call him!"

In the end, of course, Masters and Ross (who intended to hang up her acting hat and pen a beauty book had her role not continued) were both summoned back for Harmony duty. "When we're there," summarizes the actress good-naturedly of sharing both her domestic and professional domain with Masters, "we can't wait to leave and get home. And when we're not there, we think, 'What a nice place it is to be!' "

The "M" Word

Tracey Ross and Ben Masters have been dating since 2003 - and Digest just couldn't resist asking if they are going to make it official.

"Yeah," she beams. "He always says [we can get married] whenever I want to, whenever I'm ready. And I said, 'When the kids get out of the house.' When we first got together, I had one kid [son Bryce] that we were waiting to get out of the house, and I turned around and took in two [of his friends, twin brothers whose parents had recently split]. Now that everybody is out, I don't feel any pressure. I'd like to get married. I would just like to be his wife and I'd like him to be my husband. If you could do that without getting married, I'd probably be just as happy. Sometimes I think we would just run off to Vegas, but then I think it would be nice to have a wedding and have everybody there. Do you think we can get PASSIONS to pay for it [laughs]?"

Did you know?

*Ross was kicked out of the theater program at Rutgers University because she missed two classes while doing a photo shoot in the Bahamas for Sears. She switched her major to dance.

*She tried out for the acting category on Star Search, but spots were filled for that season, so they suggested she try for the spokesmodel category.

The Music Man: "I'm so proud of him," boasts Ross of her 18-year-old son, Bryce, who is attending community college this year, and is heading to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston next fall.

Live, Laugh, Love: "Every joke he tells, everyone gets - no matter how weird. I love that about him," says Ross of Ben Masters (Julian).