Ruth Carter, the first African American to win an Oscar for costume design for her work on “Black Panther,” said she hoped it would open the door for others.
“I dreamed of this night and I prayed for this night honestly (and) what it would mean for young people coming behind me,” Carter said of her win for the fantastical costumes in the Marvel super-hero epic.
Speaking to reporters backstage at the Dolby Theatre, she said she started her career working with director Spike Lee and has since had a part in designing costumes for 40-50 films. She was nominated twice before, more than 20 years ago.
“It just means that we opened up the door … finally the door is wide open,” Carter said.
The designer said she has spent time mentoring younger creative types and doing “whatever I could to raise others up.” For them, “this means that there is hope … (that) other people can come on in and win an Oscar just like I did.””
She said her fellow nominees had done extraordinary design work.
“I think that this was a very difficult category to win,” Carter said, speculating that the use of 3-D printing technology may have tipped the scales in her favor.
The film crew needed to create its own vision for the film despite the wealth of material in the Marvel comics.
“We had to create new tech … It’s a forward nation,” Carter said of the fictional African country of Wakanda.
The complexity of the creations was illustrated by Carter’s shout-out to Julia Koerner, an assistant adjunct professor of architecture and urban design at UCLA. Koener created an algorithm to generate a design based on a South African married woman’s hat that then had to be sent to Belgium to be printed.
Asked about some of her favorites from the multitude of costumes in the film, Carter talked about the beadwork on the uniforms of the Dora Milaje, the female special forces warriors who protect Wakanda.
The costume “honors the female form and doesn’t exploit it,” Carter said, showing that “you can also be beautiful and be a warrior and not be exploited.”
Asked what advice she would give her younger self, the designer said: “I would tell my young self that through the hard work, through whatever you might have felt, whatever you might have been afraid of … fear not, because tomorrow is yours.”