Black Panther’s Ruth E. Carter won Best Costume Design at Sunday’s Academy Awards, becoming the first black woman in history to win the category.
Carter — a previous Oscar nominee for Amistad and Malcom X — helped clothe the entire fictional nation of Wakanda in Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, crafting everything from Chadwick Boseman’s superhero suit to the Dora Milaje’s colorful armor. The award is also the first Oscar won by Marvel Studios.
“Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we turned him into an African king,” Carter said in her acceptance speech. “It’s been my life’s honor to create costumes. Thank you to the Academy, and thank you for honoring African royalty and the empowered way women can look and lead on screen.”
Carter also thanked Spike Lee — himself a nominee this year for BlacKkKlansman — for giving her her “start” with Malcolm X. “I hope this makes you proud,” she added.
Backstage afterwards, Carter told reporters that she had “dreamed of this night” and hoped her historic win would help inspire other young black artists.
“It just means that we’ve opened up the door,” Carter said. “Finally the door is wide open, and I’ve been struggling and digging deep and mentoring and doing whatever I could to raise others up, and I hope through my example, this means that there is hope and other people can come on in and win an Oscar just like I did.”
Carter previously opened up to EW about the overwhelming response to Black Panther, which scored seven Oscar nominations and has earned more than $1.3 billion at the global box office.
“It’s such an important film,” Carter she told EW. “It made such a mark and I love the costumes myself. For the fans, I’m just so proud that it got recognized by the Academy as well. Sometimes, the fans will love something and the Academy won’t recognize it, so you think, was it big enough or was it great enough? But, it feels like a home run.”
Carter beat out fellow nominees Mary Zophres for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Sandy Powell for The Favourite and Mary Poppins Returns, and Alexandra Byrne for Mary Queen of Scots.
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Additional reporting by Marc Snetiker.
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