Ruth E. Carter Becomes First Black
Woman to Win Two Oscars

By Jazz Tancay | March 12, 2023

Ruth E. Carter has become the first Black woman to win two Oscars.

Carter, who in 2019 became the first Black person to win the Oscar for costume design for her work on Marvel’s “Black Panther,” was recognized for the film’s sequel, “Wakanda Forever.” In her speech, she thanked director Ryan Coogler and asked late “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman to look after her own mother, who recently died at 101.

“Nice to see you again,” Carter said as she took the stage. “Thank you to the Academy for recognizing the superhero that is a Black woman. She endure, she loves, she overcomes, she is every woman in this film. She is my mother. This past week, Mable 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. This is for my mother. She was 101.”

Carter beat out Catherine Martin, who won the BAFTA and Costume Designers Guild awards for her work on Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis.” She also beat Mary Zophres for “Babylon,” Jenny Beaven for “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” and Shirley Kurata for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which was the surprise winner of the Sci-Fi Fantasy award at the CDGA.

Denzel Washington made history in 2002 when he won his second Oscar for “Training Day,” the first Black person to do so in an acting category. He first won in 1990 for “Glory.” Mahershala Ali is the only other Black actor with two Oscars, for 2016’s “Moonlight” and 2018’s “Green Book.” While newly minted EGOT Viola Davis has four Oscar nominations, she has only won once, for 2016’s “Fences.”

Sound mixer Russell Williams II was the first Black person to win two Oscars, sharing the best sound award for both “Dances With Wolves” and “Glory.”

Carter has a total of four career Oscar nominations, including for 1992’s “Malcolm X” and 1997’s “Amistad.” Her credits also include “Selma” and the Tina Turner biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” for which Carter recreated Tina Turner’s most iconic looks from the ’70s and ’80s, including the famous gold metallic fringe dress and high-waisted miniskirts.

In building the costumes of Wakanda, which Carter called one of the biggest challenges of her career, she had to account for the physical immersion of her designs in water. “We put it underwater, and everything just went up. I had to remake things that were tested. I had to weigh them down, and sometimes they were too light, other times they were too heavy,” she told Variety.

Carter, who is Spike Lee’s go-to costume designer, credits the director as being instrumental in changing the way she looks at Hollywood: “‘You walk through Hollywood with your own voice. You walk through there with your portfolio,’ he would say. He gave us that charge.”

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