Recently, I had the immense pleasure of attending a lecture given by Ruth Carter, costume designer extraordinaire. If you don't know who she is, you'd better ask somebody. Seriously though, Ms. Carter is the dynamic creator behind the beautiful costumes that graced the 2018 blockbuster film, Black Panther, as well as some old school favorites such as School Daze (1988), Do the Right Thing (1989), Love & Basketball (2000) and Roots (2016), to name a few. While she's been nominated a few times for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, she took home the award for Black Panther and is the first African American to win in that category. If you saw that movie (and if you didn't you should) and any of the others in a long list that spans her thirty-plus years career, you know that her creativity cannot be denied.
I was very eager to hear her lecture, and when I entered the auditorium I was ushered to a seat right in the middle of the front row! Now, I usually don't like to sit in the front row in a venue such as that, including a movie theater, because it's no fun looking up from my seat and ending up with a crook in my neck by the time the film or presentation ends. On this occasion, however, I felt extremely lucky to be front and center. It guaranteed that I wouldn't miss a thing!
Ms. Carter shared with us how her journey in costume design began when she was a student at Hampton University, that other "HU" HBCU (#youknow). ;-) She was interested in acting and auditioned for a part in a play that she didn't get. When it was suggested that she should consider helping out with costume design, and the school didn't offer courses in that arena, she threw herself into learning all she could about the industry and forged a path for herself that was pure Black Girl Magic. Her gift for storytelling was poured into her craft, and as she shared her story with us I could feel her energy and held onto every word.
After her presentation, she was interviewed by University of Maryland Theater Professor Scot Reese, and she answered several questions from the audience.
By the end of the lecture I was feeling a surge of inspiration that literally filled me up. As an artist and textile designer myself, I felt as if Ms. Carter is a kindred spirit and was speaking to my soul. My passion for my craft is always lit, but I could feel it bubbling up with the anticipation I feel for some projects that I am working to bring to life. Ruth Carter shook my hand before she left the stage, and it was the cherry on top of an amazing evening.