Ruth E. Carter

Costume Designer

“The mistakes are more of a learning tool than the successes. There will be hurdles. There will be stumbling blocks. There will be naysayers. You just gotta keep your focus.”

Location

Santa Monica, CA

Nationality

American

Average Work Week

60+

When Black Panther won near universal acclaim and earned $700 million (US) upon its release in early 2018, most people credited director Ryan Coogler as the storytelling presence who gave the Marvel film a different kind of weight, creativity, and perspective. But Coogler wasn’t the only storyteller working on the film. Black Panther costume designer Ruth E. Carter is a storyteller too — only she doesn’t use a script, a captivating image, or a telling line of dialogue. Carter let audiences explore the fictional world of Wakanda through armor, robe, and headdress.

“Clothing is an emotional experience,” Carter tells Find Your Grind, adding that the costumes she’s designed for films like Selma, Malcolm X, and others reveal character histories and cultural roots. Black Panther necessitated Carter researching ancient African peoples and combining those visions with the futurist, technologically advanced aesthetic of the Marvel comic. Hear more from the Oscar- and Emmy-nominated designer in the video above.

Ruth E. Carter is 59 years old and grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. Carter graduated from Hampton University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. Carter began her career working as an intern in her hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts at the Santa Fe Opera. She moved to Los Angeles in 1986. While working at the Los Angeles Theater Center, Carter met director Spike Lee, who hired her for his second film, School Daze (1988), and with whom she worked on a number of films thereafter, including Do the Right Thing (1989), Mo’ Better Blues (1990), Jungle Fever (1991), and Malcolm X (1992). Carter has continued to work on films for Spike Lee, including Oldboy (2013), Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014), and Chi-Raq (2015).

In addition to designing costumes for the films of Spike Lee, Carter has worked with legendary directors such as Steven Spielberg and John Singleton, and has dressed actors from Denzel Washington to Josh Brolin, and actresses from Angela Bassett to Jane Fonda.

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My Advice

I think it’s important for dreamers to know that you can be successful and it starts with your dream. And it’s that dreaming that just makes everything blossom into the rest of your life. I don’t want them to dream as if they are going to be something in the future. I want them to dream about who they are right now and empower themselves with that dream.

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