Black Her-Story Spotlight: Ruth Carter

In honor of Black History Month, Black Girls Craft would like to spotlight Ruth E. Carter, an Academy Award winning costume designer, who has become one of the best modern examples of black excellence in her career. Like the founder of Black Girls Craft, Mary DeBoise she is a Springfield, Massachusetts native, and started out as an intern for her home city, as well as the Santa Fe Opera. Since, she has worked with directors such as Spike Lee, Steven Spielberg, and John Singleton, and has dressed actors and actresses alike, including Denzel Washington and Angela Bassett.

 

Graduating from Hampton University with a degree in arts, Carter made a name for herself in films over the last few decades. From Malcom X in 1992, Amistad in 1997, all the way to Black Panther in 2018, Ruth Carter’s work has made her one of the most well-known and sought after costume designers today, a testament to her talent – and she has no plans of stopping yet.

Carter’s unparalleled and unprecedented talent to create entire stories through costume and character design has not gone unnoticed. Her career, spanning many decades and over forty films, has brought her numerous accolades. She has garnered two Academy Award nominations for ‘Best Costume Design’ for director Spike Lee’s Malcom X, and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad, as well as an Emmy nomination in 2016 for her work on the ROOTS reboot. In 2019, she was awarded with an Academy Award for ‘Best Costume Design’ for her designs on Ryan Cooglar’s Black Panther, a film that Carter drew inspiration from the Maasai and Ndebele people, as well as travelled personally to southern Africa to receive permission to incorporate traditional Lesotho design into the film’s costumes. Carter was the first black woman to receive such an honor in Academy history.

Although Carter has spent her more than three decade career bringing African American characters to live on the big screen, she says that there are not many people she encounters doing her work that look like her. “It’s still a very mysterious industry,” Carter told the TODAY show, “It’s still really hard to break in. I want to see more people of color, and sometimes I think that the outreach isn’t going as far as it should.” To honor her roots, and send a message to people of color, Carter has partnered with H&M to create her line “Ruthless”. Of the line, she says, “I am reintroducing the big, strong, saturated liberation color and the idea of learning to trust my voice as an African American woman who went the distance creatively.” She states that on set, her nickname is “Ruthless”, so she wants this line to “give you a charge to be ruthless and just go for it!”

 

Black excellence is found in all fields and industries, and there is a constant need to increase the presence of people of color in the Hollywood setting. Ruth Carter’s success can serve as an example of the possibilities when art is allowed to thrive into something great – as well as an inspiration to aspiring artists, designers, and creatives to pursue whatever direction they would like their work to travel.

  1. Ebony Wiggins says:

    I just love all of this black girl magic!! Beautiful article and so well written! Keep up the amazing work!

  2. Phyllis Davis says:

    Par EXCELLENCE IN DEMONSTRATED TALENT! Thank you for sharing. Inspiring

  3. Tracy Davis says:

    Truly love seeing Women of Color represented in an industry where few of us reside. Hopefully her ground breaking work in the industry will inspire more young ladies of color to break an industry where we are grossly under represented in. Bravo Ms. Carter. Thanks for such a great article Black Girl Magic in the Movies! I love it