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Oscars: Ruth E. Carter Makes History With Best Costume Design Win for ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’



At the 2023 Oscars, Ruth E. Carter won her second statuette for her imaginative costume work on the futuristic Marvel film. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. This marked Carter’s second Oscar win for best costume design.

She previously won an Oscar in 2019 for Marvel’s Black Panther, becoming the first-ever Black woman to take home the statuette for costume design. She now becomes the first Black woman to be a two-time winner in any category, and joins only four other Black winners to have two competitive Oscars (Denzel Washington, Willie D. Burton, Russell Williams II and Mahershala Ali).

She also becomes the first person to win a costume design Oscar for designing both an original film and its sequel.

At the start of her acceptance speech, Carter alluded to her previous win for Black Panthertelling the audience, “Nice to see you again.”

And she dedicated the moment to her late mother, Mabel Carter, who she said died within the last week. “This is for my mother. She was 101,” said the costume designer who also invoked the late Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, asking him to look after her mom.

Said Carter in her speech, “Thank you to the Academy for recognizing the superhero that is a Black woman. She endures. She loves. She overcomes. She is every woman in this film. She is my mother. This past week Mabel Carter became an ancestor. This film prepared me for this moment. Chadwick please take care of mom. Ryan Coogler, Nate Moore, thank you both for your vision together we are reshaping how culture is represented. The Marvel family, Kevin Feige, Victoria Alonso, Louis D’Esposito and their arsenal of genius, thank you. I share this with many dedicated artists whose hands and hearts helped manifest the costumes of Wakanda and Talokan.”

Carter had previously been Oscar nominated for 1992’s Malcolm X and 1997’s Amistad. Carter had previously won for best costume design Black Panther: Wakanda Forever at the Black Reel Awards, the Critics Choice Awards and the NAACP Image Awards.

Many awards analysts had predicted that Catherine Martin would win the costume design category for Elvis, while Babylon‘s Mary Zophres, Everything Everywhere All at Once‘s Shirley Kurata, and Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris‘ Jenny Beavan were also nominated for their costume work in 2022. (Both Martin and Kurata won awards for best costume design on Feb. 27 at the Costume Designers Guild Awards.)

Letitia Wright as Shuri and Tenoch Huerta Mejia as Namor in Marvel Studios' BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER.

Letitia Wright as Shuri and Tenoch Huerta Mejía as Namor in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER.

Courtesy of Marvel; Courtesy of Eli Ade/MARVEL

For Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Carter not only revisited the world of Wakanda and its Afrofuturist looks, but also created Mayan-inspired costumes for the newly revealed underwater world of Talokan, ruled by Namor.

“Similar to Afro-future for Wakanda, it’s like Latino-future,” she told THR last year. “It was exciting. I kept thinking, ‘Oh, they’re going to love this; they’re going to celebrate this.’”

For Black Panther: Wakanda ForeverCarter — who graduated from Hampton University with a bachelor’s degree in theater arts and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2021 — designed more than 2,100 costumes and faced her biggest challenge in creating looks that would survive and read well underwater.

Black Panther Wakanda Forever

Winston Duke as M’Baku in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Marvel Studios

“There were so many aspects to being in water that worked against us,” she told THR. “We made a headdress for Namor with organic materials and feathers. He went underwater and everyone loved the way it looked and floated. But when it came out, it was unusable, because chemicals in the water bleached out the color. So we were constantly learning how to fix our dyes so they didn’t fade. And learning how to make things out of silicone that look real. We had to weigh and tether the fabrics; every costume was different.”

Carter’s next project is creating the costumes for Marvel’s new Blade film.

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