2018 • Costume Design • Backstage

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91st Oscars Backstage Transcript: Costume Design

SPEECH BY: Ruth Carter
FILM: “BLACK PANTHER”

A. Thank you. Hi.

Q. Congratulations, Ruth, on your well‑deserved award.
A. Thank you so much.

Q. And I wanted to ask you today, is there one specific costume or one specific character whose costume you think earned you this award?

A. Oh, I think that this was a very difficult category to win. And based on the fact that we used a new technology could have tipped the iceberg for me. All the nominees had brilliant costumes, but I had 3‑D printing. And that might have done it.

Q. Ruth Carter, congratulations.
A. Thank you.

Q. Please talk a bit about what this night means for you, being ‑‑ making history.

A. Wow. I dreamed of this night. I dreamed of this night and I ‑‑ I prayed for this night honestly. Not only just for being a hard‑working costume designer, but what it would mean for young people coming behind me, because, you know, this came from grass roots, you know. I started with independent film with Spike Lee, and it rose through 40 films, 50 films and two Oscar nominations without a win. But I dreamed of this night. And now I hope that now I won’t ‑‑ we won’t necessarily have to wait for another first. We have the first.

Q. Hi, Ruth. Congratulations.
A. Thank you.

Q. As you mentioned 3‑D, there was a little bit of your costume design also from the Austrian designer Julia Koerner?
A. Yes. The 3‑D crown. Yes.

Q. How did you come to learn to work with her?

A. Well, Julia Koerner is a brilliant and very smart architect professor at UCLA, who took the isicholo, the South African married woman’s hat, and she designed the algorithms in the computer and sent it to Belgium where we had it 3‑D printed. If it weren’t for her brilliance, we would not have that costume in the BLACK PANTHER for sure.

Q. How is it going?
A. Hi.

Q. My question is, as the first black person to win this award, what do you feel this award means for other black creators?

A. Well, it just means that we’ve opened up the door. Finally the door is wide open. And I’ve been struggling and, you know, digging deep, and mentoring, and doing whatever I could to raise others up. And I hope through my example this means that there is hope, and other people can come on in and win an Oscar just like I did.

Q. So congratulations on ‑‑
A. Hi.

Q. So in spite of or in addition to the newness of the technique, talk about the sourcing not only going back, in some cases, centuries for the African side, but even more specifically 50 years for the comic book and the Jack Kirby sensibility, how much that, if any, affected some of the design choices?

A. Oh, absolutely. There were several iterations of the BLACK PANTHER story through every comic book writer and illustrator, but it all started with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and their idea that the black community in the 60s needed a superhero. And guess what? The black community in 2019, ’18, needed a superhero as well. So with that, we created a new Wakanda because it’s a forward nation. It’s forward in technology. So we couldn’t really use the old tech from the other comics. We had to create new tech. And with that, the door ‑‑ the ideas were open to us to ‑‑ to be creative.

Q. Hi, Ruth. I told you you were going to win out on the red carpet. How are you? Congratulations.
A. Cheers.

Q. Cheers to you. Okay. In this business, we all know it’s all about the detail. And what you do as any costume designer, there’s just so many little details. So what is it in this movie that stands out to you that really had you crazy over the details?

A. Oh, well, I love the neck rings, the ‑‑ from the Ndebele tribe. I love the use of leather skins from the Himba women. I love the symbolism of the beadwork on the Dora Milaje. I love how the Dora Milaje costume honors the female form and doesn’t exploit it. And so there were several things that really brought so much pride and responsibility to the crafting of these costumes to show that you can also be beautiful and be a warrior and not be exploited.

Q. Hey, I was interviewing Robi Reed.
A. Yes.

Q. And she helped me form a question.
A. Okay.

Q. So it’s Ruthie, freshman year. Did you see yourself standing here, and what would you tell yourself, your young self, now?
A. I would tell my young self that through the hard work, through the, whatever you might have felt or you might have been afraid of, that you are doing the right thing; that you should not ‑‑ fear not, because, you know, tomorrow is yours.

Q. Thank you so much and congratulations.
A. Thank you.

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