Ruth E. Carter is honored with an NAACP ‘Vanguard’ Award

The first black woman to win a Best costume design Oscar will receive her award at a special ceremony and display it on February 25th.

With credits from cult films like The five heartbeats, Malcom X, What’s love got to do with it, Amistad and Selma already below her belt, Ruth E Carter‘s historic 2019 Oscar win for Best Costume Design for Marvel Black Panther in many ways overdue. But just before the 53rd NAACP Image Awards airs on Saturday, February 26, Carter is honored by the sacred organization with the Vanguard Award for Costume Design.

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Similar to her Career Award 2019 from the Costume Designers Guild (where she is also nominated this year for her work on Come 2 America), the NAACP’s Vanguard Award will recognize Carter’s wide-ranging work since earning her first film credit as a designer for Spike Lee‘S school daze. To this day, one of those awards is that I’ve become only the second costume designer—and the first black designer.receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2021.

Reflecting on her already storied career, Carter recently recounted the golden globes:

“I didn’t start this career with a desire to be the first black costume designer. I knew the spot wasn’t filled, but I just wanted to be the best costume designer. I’ve studied all sorts of costume design work. I’ve walked the industry and grappled with the ups and downs of being an African American woman. I had to put up with the fact that maybe you know how to make a film, but they won’t let you… So I didn’t start out as a “black costume designer,” but as a black woman in this industry, I had to struggle.”

Credit: The Golden Globes

Carter’s incredible talent and her tenacity as she navigated the often ostracizing ranks of Hollywood are just two of the reasons her NAACP honor is well-deserved, as explained by Karen Boykin Citieschairman of the NAACP Image Awards and vice chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors, in a statement obtained by Women’s Daily Wear (WWD).

“As a trailblazer and icon for innovators and costume designers alike, the NAACP is pleased to honor Ruth E. Carter for continually using her talents to revolutionize and transcend the world of fashion,” she said, later adding, “[W]We commend Ruth for using her platform and the power of visual communication to share narratives about culture, race and politics.”

WWD also reports that Carter’s award will be presented ahead of Saturday’s awards ceremony at a special Image Awards event titled “Colors Behind the Look: A Celebration of Fashion, Costume Design and Glam.” The private event will take place on Friday, February 25th in Los Angeles and will be hosted by a famous stylist Googoo Atkins and plans are to include a celebration of black designers via a runway show featuring the labels of Kevin Hall, Carl Jones, Rodney Epperson, Isaiah Hemingway and Byron Lars. In her honor, Carter’s extensive costume work will be highlighted in a special exhibit entitled the Ruth Carter Costume Exhibit.

When the Image Awards air this weekend, two other style pioneers will also be remembered, in homage to the late fashion journalist Andre Leon Talley and designers Virgil Abloh are planned. And nodding to the living legacy of Carter and her Hollywood contemporaries – including costume designers Paul Tazewella Oscar nomination 2022 to the Westside Storyand mia neal and Jamaica Wilsonwho made history as the first black women nominee and Oscar winner for hair and makeup (Ma Rainey’s black butt) – next year’s Image Awards will include two new categories: Costume Design and Hair and Makeup.

Carter acknowledged the many unsung talents in her field in a statement to WWD, expressing her gratitude and saying:

“I’m honored to be named Vanguard by the NAACP Image Awards…I’m recognized as the first in costume design, but there have been generations of women of color who have come before me who have been misjudged for their artistry and craftsmanship and denied the.” Opportunity to work, let alone dream of, a costume designer. I am honored to accept this award in her memory and grateful that my work opens doors for people of color. Thank you to the NAACP for introducing the costume design category among their many awards for this celebration of black excellence.”

Photo credit: WWD

The 53rd NAACP Image Awards will air Saturday, February 26 at 8pm ET on BET.

Maiysha Kai is theGrio’s Lifestyle Editor, covering all things black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades of experience in fashion and entertainment, a love of great books and aesthetics, and the indomitable brilliance of black culture. She is also a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and editor of the YA anthology Body (Words of Change series).

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