Slay Black Girl, Slay: The Truth That Is Ruth E. Carter

For successful women, it is always easy to run down the laundry list of their accomplishments. I believe that in brushing through, or running through these accomplishments too quickly, we miss the opportunity to truly celebrate them. For the moment, I’m going to put more light on Ruth E. Carter.

The fashion industry is cutthroat and competitive, this much we know. In putting the demands of achieving success in Hollywood on top of it? That is a whole other animal. This before adding the complication of race! Ruth E. Carter has been navigating this space since 1983.


In moving from her hometown of Springfield, MA in 1986, she met a new filmmaker: Spike Lee. From working with Spike Lee on his earlier movies (like School Daze, Do The Right Thing and Mo’ Better Blues), she has also worked with Stephen Spielberg, John Singleton, Lee Daniels and Ava DuVernay. Most notably, she has worked with Ryan Coogler for Black Panther. Her current project is Being Mary Jane on BET.

I feel that I must emphasize the ease with which we celebrate the ambitions of Black women. I think sometimes because we are so magical, we expect that magic to be enough. The ambition is supposed to automatically yield results. In that space, sometimes, we don’t count the wins. Even for one another.

Ruth E. Carter is the first Black woman to win an Academy Award for Costume Design.

Let that sink in.

After thirty years of doing what she loves, most of her accolades have come in and after 2002. What people believe is instantaneous requires passion and dedication. And adding the complication of race? As a Black woman born when Black Hollywood (in its current form) was resurging, I can only imagine what hoops she had to jump through. How many times she was looked over. How she couldn’t be seen as the talent she is. I can only imagine the moments of quiet doubt she may have had–even to herself.

I celebrate Ruth E. Carter, because she is creative and beautiful and unbothered. I celebrate her because sometimes it’s good to celebrate the women who look like you–so you, too, can keep going.

If you love Ruth E. Carter, you can see more of her work later this year with her traveling exhibit called:
Dress Code: 35 Years of Ruth E. Carter’s Afrocentric Movie Costumes

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