Hampton University alumna’s costume design helps propel ‘Black Panther’ to success

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HAMPTON, Va. – ‘Black Panther’ broke all types of records over Presidents’ Day weekend, and an alumna from a local university had a lot to do with its success.

Ruth Carter, Hampton University ’82 (Photo courtesy of Hampton University)

Two-time Academy Award- and Emmy-nominated costume designer Ruth Carter graduated from Hampton University’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts in 1982. She is the first African American costume designer to be nominated for an Academy Award (for Spike Lee’s film ‘Malcolm X’ in 1993 and Steven Spielberg’s ‘Amistad’ in 1998).

‘Black Panther’ didn’t just receive accolades for its writing and visual effects; it was also highly praised for its futuristic take on African fashion, which inspired many moviegoers to cosplay as the film’s characters or wear African-inspired attire to screenings across the country. That was all thanks to Carter’s vision.

“Wakanda is this vast, unknown world and , ultimately, the challenge of the unknown is what appealed to me on so many levels,” she said. “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.”

Highly sought-after for her work, Carter has also worked on notable period ensemble films relating to African American history such as ‘The Butler,’ ‘Selma’ and ‘Roots.’ She has worked with many of the most notable directors in Hollywood, including Lee, Spielberg, Lee Daniels, Reggie Hudlin, and now – although he’s only three movies in – ‘Black Panther’ director Ryan Coogler.

“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. “Words cannot capture my pride at seeing a talented alumna positively displayed for the world to see!”

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