While movie and television audiences may not have known Ruth E. Carter was the costume designer behind some of Hollywood’s biggest films, the industry certainly did.
Now, with 40 years and countless films under her belt, Carter is adding on to her list of firsts by becoming the only costume designer thus far to earn a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The history-making moment will take place on Feb. 25 with a virtual ceremony and feature guest speakers Oprah Winfrey and Eddie Murphy. The announcement of her impending star first came in June 2019.
At the time Carter tweeted, “ALL the STARS are CLOSER! Medium star Especially those on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! Medium star I raise my star, thankful for my life, Medium star to embrace the people who know my journey and are very proud of me and of my work. And now that history is made I raise my star as I am forever grateful!”
In 1993 she was the first Black person nominated for an Oscar for her costume work in Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” where she transformed Academy Award winning actor Denzel Washington into the historical activist. She was again nominated for her work on Steven Spielberg’s 1997 “Amistad.” But in 2019 the tides turned when Carter finally won the golden award that had evaded her for more than two decades, making her the first Black costume design to win an Ocsar for her creations in Marvel’s blockbuster film “Black Panther.
“Wow, I got it. This has been a long time coming,” she said during her acceptance speech. The film that grossed more than $1.3 billion spawned countless recreations of Carter’s costumes as adults and children delved into the world of the fantasy land of Wakanda through cosplay.
“Marvel may have created the first Black superhero, but through costume design we turned him into an African king,” said Carter to the Los Angeles Times of bringing the Black Panther to life. In her acceptance speech Carter was also sure to give thanks to the person who helped her begin her trailblazing career.
“Spike Lee, thank you for my start. I hope this makes you proud,” she said. The duo’s first time working together was for his 1988 film “School Daze.” From there Carter went on to help clothe characters in “Jungle Fever”; multiple John Singleton projects, including “Baby Boy”; Whitney Houston in “Sparkle”; and most recently “Coming 2 America”, the long-awaited follow up to Eddie Murphy’s 1988 cult classic “Coming to America.”
Carter’s storied career is on display through her costumes in the “Ruth E Carter: Afrofuturism in Costume Design” exhibit at Atlanta’s SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film through Sept. 12.