Ruth Carter Feature Image

Star Power

By Bonnie Nipar | March 9, 2021

Ruth E. Carter

The Costume Designers Guild sends its heartfelt congratulations to Ruth E. Carter for receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Carter is one of only two costume designers to receive this momentous honor, 61 years after the first was awarded to the legendary Edith Head. This award is a testimony to Ruth’s incredible talent and the power of costume design.

In a career that spans more than three decades, Carter has designed over 60 film and television projects, many of them culturally and historically significant. A rich and nuanced visual storyteller with a deep understanding of character, she is dedicated to research and serious about great clothes. Her keen sense of color and texture has become her aesthetic trademark.

Carter has received over a dozen achievement awards, including Academy Award nominations for Malcom X and Amistad and, most notably, an Oscar in 2019 for Black Panther. As the first African American to win an Oscar in the Costume Design category, as well as the Costume Designers Guild’s Career Achievement Award, Carter has broken barriers and proven herself to be a costume force extraordinaire.

Born the youngest of eight children to a single mother in Springfield, Massachusetts, Carter grew up in a home enriched by art. She learned sewing by using her grandmother’s Singer, and pattern layout at the local Boys & Girls Club. Majoring in theatre arts at Hampton University in Virginia, she pursued acting but started designing costumes at an instructor’s request. By senior year, she was “the” costume designer on campus. After stints interning at a hometown theater and as a costume apprentice at the Santa Fe Opera, Carter landed at the Los Angeles Theater Center. There she found her passion and career when she met director and fellow powerhouse, Spike Lee. He hired her to design School Daze in 1988, launching an ongoing collaborative relationship that has spawned 14 films to date. Starting her film career by working with independent filmmakers who did things their own way, gave Carter the artistic license to spread her wings.

Throughout her career, Carter has firmly believed in paying it forward through mentoring and public speaking. She captivates audiences of young hopefuls with her costume design lectures at universities across the country and remains active with the Boys and Girls Club of America. She strives to be an inspiration for the next generation of costume designers and hopes that her accomplishments will pave the way for others of diverse backgrounds. Carter advises staying focused and working hard and points to social media as a platform for up-and-comers to create their own design identities.

At the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce ceremony to unveil her star, Oprah Winfrey and Eddie Murphy offered personal testimony about Carter’s talent, acumen, and meticulousness. Carter, in turn, thanked all the people she’s met along the way that helped make it happen. Although the ceremony was virtual, the star will be in place at 6800 Hollywood Blvd. for visitors to enjoy.“

“It’s extraordinary to follow Edith Head, the first costume designer who earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, the same year I was born. It took 60 years for all the stars to align for this moment that feels out of this world.

Blessed by grace, my star symbolizes my whole journey. A young girl, who fell in love with sketching and design, inspired by poetry and plays. I think about when I began this career and dedicate this star to that young woman. I thank her for all her passion, unwavering dedication, sacrifices, choices, doubts she cast aside, and hard work she put in that has created a legacy for the ages. Telling stories that thread the tapestry of our history through civil rights and into an Afrofuture so bright, it has reimagined beauty and changed the fabric of filmmaking. My star feels like an ambassador for the field of Costume Design.

Shining a spotlight on how we have enriched the art. The magnitude of work and collaboration we put in behind-the-scenes to create magic, it’s a nod to the stars that we are. It is my hope that my star, on the corner of Hollywood and Highland, serves as a North Star for anyone who desires to be a costume designer or has a dream. Intention leads to inspiration that leads to your destination. Follow my North Star and you will go far!”-Ruth E. Carter