Black Women in Hollywood: Ruth E. Carter

The legendary costume designer discusses the real reason she is enamored with fashion.

ESSENCE.COM Feb, 20, 2015
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Wow, who turned the camera around and pointed it at me? [LAUGH] But it's wonderful to be here and thank you, Essence Magazine, and all the nominees, the honorees tonight. I'm in the presence of greatness. Ava DuVernay, we fought so hard for Selma. Selma was a labor of love and I'm so, so proud of it, and I'm so happy you chose me. [APPLAUSE] Those are some fierce [UNKNOWN] to fill. I'd like to thank my mother, my mom was my first teacher. She was a counselor for the city, and she just, would talk to people who needed someone to listen. And my brother and I would ride to school as she was driving us, as she went to work, and we'd laugh at, you know, people we'd see. And she's say, Oh that's Mr. Thomas he looks okay, he's got a clean shirt on and. You know good shoes. You know it looks okay. And that that, those words allowed me to hear, hear and see and take pause and look at people differently. And I began to see the story behind the people. People assume that I became a costume designer because I love Chanel, Dior, McQueen. But it's instead, it was. Lorraine Hansbury and Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, Nicki Giovanni, Maya Angelou and Tanya Sanchez. [APPLAUSE] Those were my designers. These playwrights and poets ignited my creative spirit. With the rich stories, that showed that being a visionary is being artistic. And visual. And inspired. It's realizing the presence of your power. To the actors who stood beautifully in the mirror and shared the power of their presence, thank you. Thank you to Ruby Dee as Mother Sister, Esther Rolle as Aunt Sarah, Whitney as Emma, Lorraine Toussaint as Amelia Boynton. Thank you to Halle Berry as Vivian in Jungle Fever, as Necie in. And Franky and Alice, thank you Oprah as the butler's wife Gloria and activist Annie Lee Cooper. Carmen Ejogo as Sparkle and Coretta Scott King and thank you to Angela Bassett as Stella. As Betty Shabazz and as Tina Turner. Can you feel the power of our presence? [APPLAUSE] Thank you for allowing my vision to harmonize with yours, brining to life such powerful characters. Some of whom have changed the world. On the set of Lee Daniels' The Butler, Oprah was getting ready to perform a scene in the Louisiana countryside. She was wearing the 80s, multicolored track suit we all know so well. We were feeling inspired and she says to me, you know, art is prayer. It's God expressing himself through you. Oprah, little did you know, that was an ha moment for me. I had been seeking a deeper spiritual practice my whole life and didn't realize I was already doing it. [APPLAUSE]. [APPLAUSE] It is my hope that my life serves, or my career serves as a model for young designers to discover their passion, to find their artistic vision, to embrace it as we strive. To change the world through the power of our presence and our vision for tomorrow. Thank you very much. Blessings. [APPLAUSE]