Ruth E. Carter Dedicates Best Costume Design Award to Her "Superhero" Mother

Carter is the first black woman to win the award.

Ruth E. Carter took home the award for best costume design for her work for Black Panther during the 91st annual Academy Awards on Sunday.

She was up against Mary Zophres (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Sandy Powell (The Favourite and Mary Poppins Returns) and Alexandra Byrne (Mary Queen of Scots) for the honor.

Carter is the first black woman to win the award.

"I got it. Wow, this has been a long time coming," Carter began her acceptance speech. "Spike Lee, thank you for my start," she told the BlacKkKlansman helmer, who was nominated for best director and took home his first competitive Oscar later in the evening for best adapted screenplay. "I hope this makes you proud."

Lee directed the 1992 film Malcolm X, on which Carter worked as the costume designer. She earned her first Oscar nomination for the film, making history as the first black artist to ever be nominated in the category. She earned her third nomination for Black Panther. No black woman has ever been nominated for more than three awards in Oscars history.

"Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we turned him into an African king," she continued in her acceptance speech. "It's been my life's honor to create costumes."

She then thanked the Academy for the award. "Thank you for honoring African royalty and the empowered way women can look and lead onscreen," she said. 

Carter then thanked the crew behind the film that brought Wakanda to life, as well as the film's "genius" director Ryan Coogler. "You are a guiding force. Thank you for your trust and understanding my role in telling the African-American story," she told the director.

She added that creating the costumes was an expensive process and thanked the producers behind the film.

"My career is built with passion to tell stories that allow us to know ourselves better," she continued. 

She concluded the speech by dedicating the award to her 97-year-old mother. "Mom, thank you for teaching me about people and their stories. You are the original superhero," she said.

Brian Tyree Henry and Melissa McCarthy got into the spirit of the category while presenting the award. Before they announced Carter as the winner, the two talked about the importance of costume design while wearing elaborate costumes. McCarthy's look parodied the costumes worn in The Favourite and Mary Queen of Scots, while Henry's costume was an amalgam of elements from the other three nominees.

"These artists create a prestige of textiles with authenticity, yet never distract from the story," said McCarthy as she played with a rabbit hand puppet. The rabbit was a reference to the many pet rabbits Olivia Colman's Queen Anne kept in The Favourite, while her red wig resembled the one worn by Margot Robbie in Mary Queen of Scots.

"I could tell it was going to be something special for a lot of people," Carter previously told The Hollywood Reporter about working on Black Panther.  "And when it did come out and everyone started dressing in their regalia [at screenings and on Halloween], I felt like people were really wanting to see something like this, that they really wanted to celebrate culture and they wanted to see themselves."

The 2019 Oscars ceremony took place at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood and were broadcast on ABC.