The Woman Behind the Wakanda Wardrobe

Ruth Carter. Photo Courtesy of Ruth Carter/Hampton University.

Before the highly anticipated film, “Black Panther,” hit theaters President’s Day weekend and shattered box-office projections, Hampton University Alumna Ruth Carter was shattering glass ceilings with her innovative costume designs.

Carter graduated from Hampton University’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts in 1982, according to Hampton University. She majored in Theatre Arts and has worked in the entertainment industry for over three decades alongside the biggest names in Hollywood.

Carter is the first African-American costume designer to be nominated for an Academy Award. She was nominated for Best Costume Design for Spike Lee’s “Malcom X” in 1993 and Steven

Photo Courtesy of Marvel/Hampton University

Spielberg’s “Amistad” in 1998. Carter has also been nominated for an Emmy, according to Hampton University’s press release.

“What a great moment for Hampton University, to see a Hampton University alumna in such a key role within a landmark movie,” said Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey in a press release. “Words cannot capture my pride at seeing a talented alumna positively displayed for the world to see!”

Carter’s unparalleled ability to develop an authentic story through costume and character has made her one of the most sought after and renowned costume designers today, says Hampton University. Known for her research and diligence to the craft, specifically for her outstanding work in period ensemble films like “The Butler”,  “Selma,” and “Roots.” Her high-profile resume is endless.

Movie lovers anticipated the release of “Black Panther” not just because of its tie-in for fans of Marvel Comics, but also for its take on African fashion. Since the release of the first trailer, fans have been amazed by the costumes in the movie’s world of Wakanda. Some movie goers went so far as to even wear African inspired attire to the cinema.

“Wakanda is this vast unknown world and, ultimately, the challenge of the unknown is what appealed to me on so many levels,” said Carter in a press release. “Beyond what has been established in the comic realm, I knew very little about it, but as I began my research, I realized we could create, from a place of fantasy, a place of African culture and a place of imagination. Everybody had their own take on what Black Panther’s world was but it had never really been translated to film, which was very exciting.”

Photo Courtesy of Matt Kennedy/Marvel Studios-Disney via AP

The film blew past expectations for its opening weekend, earning the recognition of the fifth-highest-grossing debut ever, according to the Associated Press. Disney predicted a four-day holiday weekend of $218 million domestically and a global debut of $361 million.